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Is it normal to feel on and off about your significant other?

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  • This topic has 23 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 2 weeks ago by TeaK.
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  • #378199
    Ashmitha
    Participant

    From self reflection, I’ve noticed that I go through periods of feeling happy and content with my partner to feeling like something is missing. When I am happy with our relationship, I wonder how I could ever feel that he isn’t the one for me. Is this normal? Our values are aligned (culture, views on having children, family etc) but we have different interests. I don’t know if we would be friends if we weren’t in a relationship… I feel like something is missing at times. When we are together, I am quite content with him. When we are apart, I sometimes question if he is the one I should marry.

    I have been in a few short-term relationships (6-8 months) but this is my longest relationship. I’m not sure if I am the problem and am self-sabotaging. (My parents had a bad marriage and only stayed together for the children. Dad was an alcoholic) I’ve heard that you can’t expect your partner to be perfect and that you have to be understanding and accepting of things, which I try to be. I am just scared of picking the wrong partner for marriage, as choosing the right partner is very important to me (because I did not witness that from my parents). I know he would make a great father and kind husband, which are a few reasons why I value him. But I wonder if our lack of a close friendship would let us have a successful marriage.

    In my last relationship, I definitely felt that best friend aspect with my partner but our morals did not align (views on having kids etc) which is why I broke up with him. I don’t miss him or anything but I did enjoy having a best friend in my partner. Would I be settling by staying in this relationship? My boyfriend has a lot of qualities I want in a partner. It’s just our lack of similar interests and lack of friendship that worries me. Is it okay if my partner is not my best friend?

    • This topic was modified 2 weeks, 3 days ago by Ashmitha.
    #378202
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ashmitha:

    I will read and reply to you when I am back to the computer in about 12 hours from now. I hope other members reply to you before I return.

    anita

    #378211
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ashmitha,

    I’ve taken a look at your previous thread, from September last year. One thing that caught my attention is that between meetings, you only text with each other, since he doesn’t like talking on the phone. He video calls his cousins and friends sometimes, but he doesn’t video call you, right?

    This to me could be problematic, because talking on the phone (if we can’t be physically together) is how bonding happens. If you like someone and want to spend time with them, you’d naturally want to spend a lot of time on the phone too, just talking about your day or telling each other sweet nothings. If he has a problem with that, it might be something to look into more deeply.

    #378225
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ashmitha:

    You shared that your parents had a bad marriage, having stayed together for the children, and that your father was an alcoholic. Because of that, you are “just scared of picking the wrong partner”, and “choosing the right partner is very important” to you. You understand that expecting a partner to be perfect is unreasonable, and as a partner, you are accepting and understanding.

    You have been in a few short-term (6-8 months) relationships. In the last, you felt that you and your former partner were “best friends”, but because your morals/ values were not aligned, you broke up with him. Your current relationship is your longest. You are considering marriage with him, but you are experiencing a “lack of close friendship”, “something is missing” in regard to the relationship.

    Your values in regard to culture, family, children, etc., are aligned, he has good qualities, but you have different interests. You are concerned with two things: the lack of similar interests, and the lack of friendship.

    When together, you are quite content, when apart, you “question if he is the one” you should marry.

    Three months ago, you shared that you’ve been seeing this man exclusively (a year and a half, currently) with a break of 7 months. You were concerned at the time about you sending him messages online and not receiving replies from him for hours, and sometimes not until the next day, even though he was active online (and texting his friends and family a lot).

    You met him only once a week, but even during those meetings, he was sometimes “glued to his phone”. You felt that he was very much sexually attracted to you, and suggested that he was not attracted to your personality (“He is still very much sexually attracted to me but I care more that he is attracted to my personality and that we are close friends… Dating my best friend is important to me”, January 2021).

    Later on, in your January thread, you shared that there were times when the two of you did “text for hours”, but “it does not happen very often”.

    You also shared that he was working full time from home, because of the pandemic, that he is a “kind-hearted person and is trying to do the right thing”, that he is the eldest child in his family, and therefore, he has heavy family responsibilities,  that he is very close to his family, and that you “come second to his sisters and cousins”. You mentioned that his interests are sports, jokes, cultural music, and that you have girlfriends with more similar interests to yours.

    My thoughts this morning: your experience as a child, witnessing the bad marriage between your parents, has been very powerful in shaping your mind, creating a fear that causes you to be alert to, and alarmed by any existing or possible problem in a relationship with a partner. You simply don’t want to have the bad marriage your parents had, and therefore, even if a partner is as good a candidate for marriage as can be, you are likely to focus on what is wrong with him and the relationship and dismiss what is right. For example, back in January, you complained that he doesn’t answer your messages for hours and longer, but later, in a following post, you shared that the two of you at times spend hours texting. I was surprised at the time because I was under the impression that it never happened.

    Even though you view yourself as relaxed, accepting and understanding in the context of your relationship, and you may behave in these ways, inside of you- you are fearful, and you focus on what the man and the relationship lacks.

    The loneliness you experienced as a child, I believe, fuels your perhaps unrealistic expectations of having a “best friends” relationship with a man, having an excessive need for a compatibility of interests (such as music and sports), and an excessive need for him to be attentive and available to you.

    I hope to read more from you, about what your thoughts regarding what I wrote here today, and regarding the current extent of your boyfriend’s availability and caring attention to you.

    anita

    #378228
    Ashmitha
    Participant

    Thank you Teak and Anita for your responses.

    I 100% think he is a good person. I just question if we are compatible.. if he is the right person for me and if I am the right person for him. I think the reason I’ve had several short-term relationships is because, subconsciously, I am looking for something “wrong” as you said Anita. It probably does stem from my fear of having a marriage like my parents’. I have always wondered why my friends have been in 4 year relationships, and despite having problems, will always want to get back together, whereas I am fine with leaving a relationship if something isn’t working. However, a healthy marriage and healthy environment for my children is very important to me.

    I do agree, I do come off as a relaxed girlfriend, which maybe I intentionally try to be. I’ve never been good at communication with partners about how I am feeling, which has led to feelings of resentment. Shortly after I wrote my last post, I met my boyfriend and when he tried to be intimate with me, I was resisting. He could tell something was wrong and literally had to PRY the information from me, because I was that afraid of sharing how I felt. I think I also have a fear of partners leaving me, which is why I hold my feelings back. I did tell him that I’d like to have a check-in at least daily. He agreed he could do that and it lasted for a few weeks, then tapered off (which usually happens when I bring things up). I find it hard to ask for my needs to be met, like maybe I am asking for too much or I am being difficult. Since I was a child, I’ve been very independent. Because my home environment wasn’t the greatest, I relied on myself for excelling in my academics and being successful in my future. I do not like asking for help from others.

    I have a great relationship with my mom. She is loving, supportive and caring. My dad and I are close as well and I still love him despite what he put us through. When he is sober, I enjoy being around him. But when he is drunk, I hate him (harsh, but it is how I feel in the moment). I try to blame his alcohol addiction instead of him because I would never not want to have a relationship with him. I would still do anything for him. I know my upbringing has affected me in ways I can’t control and might not be aware of. But how do I work through this? I want to have a healthy view on relationships but feelings of doubt and pessimism always seem to haunt me. I appear as a very confident and relaxed person to my friends and partners, but I think I am definitely insecure.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 3 days ago by Ashmitha.
    #378231
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ashmitha:

    “I know my upbringing has affected me in ways I can’t control and might not be aware of. But how do I work through this?”- a start is to become more aware of how your upbringing affected you. Here is my effort to help your awareness grow:

    “I have a great relationship with my mom… My dad and I are close as well and I still love him despite what he put us through”-

    – You love them both, just as you loved them when you were a child.

    “I am fine with leaving a relationship if something isn’t working… Since I was a child, I’ve been very independent.. I relied on myself… I do not like asking for help from others”-

    – when you were a child, you loved your parents very much, but part of you, I believe, was “fine with leaving” your parents and home, to not be there to witness their bad marriage. That part did not want to be dependent on your parents, so that you can leave and live on your own, independently.

    When you were a child, you were not a passive observant of your parents’ bad marriage, you were personally involved with your mother and with your father, you interacted with them. You probably tried to help them, and their marriage, but your efforts failed.

    Do you remember trying to help your mother, your father,  their marriage in any way, however child-like?

    anita

     

    #378236
    Ashmitha
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    Thanks for your replies. You always make me feel better and more at peace. Yes, you’re right. Because we lived in low-income, I was very motivated since I was little to excel in my academics and create a better future for myself. I often fantasize (and still do) about buying my own home and creating the life I’ve always desired since I was a child. It is one of my biggest goals in life.

    I love my family a lot and I am very protective of them. Despite being the youngest (my brother is 7 years older) as a child, I always put myself in the middle of my parents’ fights. Whenever my dad gave my mom trouble, I would be the first to go up to him and tell him to leave her alone. My mother was afraid for my safety, since he was drunk, although he would never hurt me. I was not afraid of him. He would threaten my mom a lot, and hold knives to scare her. This did not scare me lol. I would go to the kitchen, get my own knife, and stand up to him and ask him what his problem was. I just remember protecting my mom a lot as a child. I saw myself as a stronger woman than she was, and I felt the need to protect her because she was a fearful person. I matured mentally very quickly and family viewed me as very resilient. My mom still talks about how she never worries about me because I take care of myself, while she worries more about my older brother.

    I think I have a hard time fully trusting people and letting them in because I’m scared they will disappoint me, like my dad did. I’m sure it was confusing for me as a child to have a close relationship with someone (my dad) who showed me 2 very different personalities (drunk vs sober). I think I truly only trust myself.

    #378237
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ashmitha,

    you’re welcome. In your family home there was a lot of distress because of your father’s alcoholism, and I believe what happened is that you felt it’s better not to upset your mother with your problems – your emotional needs – because she was going through a lot anyway, and your father was unavailable or at least unreliable. So you decided not to share your problems with your parents, and tried to manage without their emotional support (I do not like asking for help from others. I find it hard to ask for my needs to be met, like maybe I am asking for too much or I am being difficult.).

    You focused on school and academics, in which I guess you were talented and successful, and you found certain fulfillment and satisfaction there. This also helped build your confidence, so you do seem confident, and also pretty “low-maintenance” and relaxed. But that’s just a defense mechanism, because you do need emotional closeness and intimacy. You’d like to be vulnerable and share your inner-most feelings with your significant other, but you’re afraid to do so, because you’re afraid you’d be seen as too demanding and possibly even abandoned (I think I also have a fear of partners leaving me, which is why I hold my feelings back.).

    You’re in a relationship with someone who’s got a lot of “needy” relatives to take care of, and since he’s a people-pleaser, and probably also has a sense of responsibility towards his family, he spends most of his free time taking care of them, not you. If you meet once per week and the rest of the time you just chat, not even daily, it seems to me there isn’t too much chance for emotional intimacy and sharing. It’s good that you started demanding a certain level of attention from him, such as daily check-ins.

    You’d also need to work on your willingness to share emotionally and express your needs, and on the fear of being rejected, of being “too much”. And you need to see – when you do share and open up – whether he’s capable and willing to acknowledge you and support you, or he isn’t willing to have that level of emotional intimacy with you.

     

    #378238
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ashmitha,

    I wrote my previous post before seeing your last post. Now it’s even clearer to me that in such circumstances, where you needed to protect your mother from your father physically attacking her and threatening with knives – that there was no way you would want to express your own neediness. You needed to be strong and resilient for your mother, who was weak and afraid. That makes it quite difficult for you to now express any neediness or vulnerability.

    #378241
    Peter
    Participant

    Hi Ashmitha

    Is it normal to feel on and off about your significant other? Yes it is

    My observations have been that many couples panic when they experience these “off and on” feelings and ‘feed the wrong wolf’  even when its a part of every relationship experience. I think its related with confusing the ideals of Love and Like Is is possible to Be in Love while at the same time not always be in Like? Yes.  I would argue its actually more difficult to Like someone 24/7 then it is to Love them 24/7 .  If I love someone I must also always Like everything about them. This type of relating often comes with a relating to the idea of Unconditional Love as being Unconditional allowing  similar to  the misconception that Forgiveness means the person forgiven is off the hook and can’t be held accountable.

    The experience of Love and Loving is very much connected with the experiences of accountably, responsibility, meaning, purpose, sacrifice… so much so I don’t think the experiences can be separated.  If such is the case it would be very normal and likely to feel on and off about ones significant other.  A practice of Mindfulness and discernment might be helpful in determining if boundaries have been crossed that need to be addressed.

    #378248
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ashmitha:

    For the purpose of trying to feel as close to what you felt as a child, during the scene you described, I will imagine the scene, guessing in regard to a few of the details. First (#1) I will describe the scene without your feelings at the time, second (#2), I will describe the scene adding your feelings to it.

    (#1) You are sitting at your little desk doing homework, focusing on your work. You hear a commotion in the living room, the familiar sounds of your father being drunk and angry and your mother being scared. You walk the short distance to the living room. You see your father holding a knife, pointing it at your mother. You hear your father threatening her. You go to the kitchen. You take a knife from the kitchen drawer. You walk to the living room. You point the knife at your father. You tell him to leave your mother alone.

    * You wrote: “whenever my dad gave my mom trouble, I would be the first to go up to him and tell him to leave her alone. My mother was afraid for my safety.. I was not afraid of himThis did not scare me lol. I would go to the kitchen, get my own knife, and stand up to him and ask him what his problem was”-

    – but it can not be true that you were not afraid, that seeing your father holding a knife etc., did not scare you:

    (#2) When you heard the commotion, when you saw your father holding a knife, when you heard him threatening your mother, you were very, very scared. Adrenaline was rushing through your blood, causing your heart to beat fast, pumping lots of blood to your brain and muscles, your muscles tightened, preparing for a fight, your breathing quickened, getting lots of oxygen to your brain and muscles, you felt intense clarity and strength. With that clarity, with that strength, you stood tall and confident, pointing the knife at him.

    * “I saw myself as a stronger woman than she was… I matured mentally very quickly and family viewed me as very resilient. My mom still talks about how she never worries about me because I take care of myself”- I am stopping here, Ashmitha, because this exercise has been emotionally intense for me, and at this point, I am not able to think further. I would like to return to your thread later. You are welcome to respond, if and when you are emotionally able and willing.

    anita

    #378250
    Ashmitha
    Participant

    Hi Teak,

    Thank you for your reply. What you are saying definitely makes sense. I have been closed-off emotionally since I was young. My mom, who knows me the best, says I am a very emotional person but I don’t show it. I agree with you. There wasn’t much time to talk about my feelings.. My home was chaotic and there were more important things to worry about than my feelings i.e. paying rent, getting food on the table, my dad etc. We were definitely living in survival mode which made me disregard my feelings and grow up quickly.

    Yes, school was my safe place. I really loved school. I was consistently at the top of my class, won several awards and had a great relationship with my teachers and peers. I felt happiest there. It kind of made me forget my living situation and that I was from a low-income family, and made me feel equal to my peers. I agree I am confident in my academics.. professors and employers describe me as intellectual and advanced for my level. I am confident in who I am as a person, I think I have a good relationship with myself. Haha, it is funny you say “low-maintenance.” My current boyfriend described me like that (in a positive way) early into our relationship, saying his friends’ girlfriends were very demanding.

    Yes, my boyfriend’s family is very demanding of his time but he lets it happen. I know he likes spending time and talking with them too, so it’s definitely not one-sided. Yes, this is where I’m feeling difficulty. Feeling emotionally connected to my partner is necessary for me to feel romance and security in him. I know I am a deep person, and I love to talk about feelings and experiences and just understanding people. He is very intellectual and we can have great conversations, but it just doesn’t happen often. Probably because we interact so infrequently. I think that if we both put in the time, we would be very compatible mentally (despite dissimilar interests). I appreciate the way his mind works and we think in a similar way. I think that if he committed the time he commits to his family to me, we could have a very fulfilling relationship. But that does not happen and it makes our relationship feel mediocre to me. I don’t like asking for attention, very strange feeling for me.

    #378253
    Ashmitha
    Participant

    Hi Peter,

    Thank you for your reply. That is good to hear. I think it does come with longer-term relationships after the “honeymoon phase” ends. I may have an unrealistic view on relationships.. probably due to the media and other factors. Mindfulness is a very good idea! I will try that.

    #378254
    Ashmitha
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    Thank you for your response. Please don’t feel obligated to respond if this is triggering for you. I know my experience can be hard for others to read and empathize with. I don’t want you to put yourself in an emotionally difficult situation. I am just so used to it that I have emotionally detached from it and it is easy for me to share. Sorry if it was too explicit.

    You are right. I definitely felt adrenaline in those moments, which is probably why I felt so strong. It was a fight or flight response.

    #378256
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ashmitha:

    You are welcome. I am touched that you care that I do not put myself in an emotionally difficult situation, thank you! Thing is, when I posted to you last, going through the exercise, I was not doing it for you alone, but also for myself: it helps me to  better understand my own childhood experience of intense fear. I  remember, as a child, hearing scary sounds, threats of violence.. and at one time, I too  held a knife against a parent.

    I would like to return to your thread tomorrow morning, in about 17 hours from now.

    anita

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