I really love my partner but I’m not in love with him

We still have sex but not very often and I don’t have that kind of desire for him that was there at the beginning

PROBLEM: I’m not sure if I deserve to write in about this problem, because on the surface everything seems good.

I am 32 and have been in a very good relationship for the past eight years. We get on really well together, have lots of friends and think about life in the same way. I really love my partner but I think I am not in love with him. I know that the next stage for us is to get married and have kids but I have been putting this off because of a niggling feeling that there might be something more exciting for me out there. I feel ridiculous saying this but I can’t help feeling it.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference abroad where I knew almost no one. I had no intention of flirting with anyone, much less sleeping with someone, but that is what happened. It was wonderful and I felt completely alive for a few days. Since I came back I have been cranky, moody and unhappy. I can’t tell anyone because my family and friends all love my partner and would think I was mad to consider leaving him. He knows something is up and is being so kind and considerate that I feel like a total heel. We still have sex but not very often and I don’t have that kind of desire for him that was there at the beginning.

Of course, he is understanding and not demanding. Again I feel so rotten, but I also need to feel alive. What should I do?

ADVICE: There is no doubt your relationship is in trouble and that if you do not confront the problem, the things that are happening will deepen and you might find yourself asking the same questions years from now.

The fact you had a brief affair and find yourself not telling your partner is very revealing: somehow you were open to sex with someone else without recognising it and you fear telling your partner because he does not deserve to be hurt. Your partner also sounds like he is operating from fear, as he does not challenge the lack of sex or the grumpy and distant behaviour from you. Are fear and complacency the factors that run your relationship? Is this good enough for either of you? Do you both deserve better?

It is possible that, because you both feel very connected in lots of ways, there is too much similarity between you and thus you need to magnify the mysterious between you?

Perhaps there is an assumptions that you know the other person so well that there is no need to even have a conversation; this could be the death knell for the relationship.

You could honour your partner by being honest with him, by allowing him to know the truth and hear his side of things. What does he think about your intimate life: is he bored, rejected, fearful or pessimistic? Does he have a long-term view that might include the idea that it will all come right at some stage? The reality is what the two of you do now, and have been doing for some time, is exactly what you get and that currently sounds mediocre.

All relationships involve some risk. We rarely want to settle for less than being the most important person in the other person’s life.

This is why we fight over the small things: to ascertain our value and to be sure that even the insignificant things are of importance to our partners.

The reason we might not engage is perhaps fear or indifference. It would seem that you are not yet indifferent and so the fear has to be challenged. Is the fear that you might not meet someone else to spend your life with a factor? Is the biological clock ticking? Do these fears make you feel trapped into making a choice that you consider to be less than optimal? Can you imagine how your partner would feel if he knew how you saw the relationship?

Indecision has consequences: we can spend a long time half in and half out of a relationship and the effect is to be non-committal. We are then available to be pulled away by an outside attraction and this is more serious when there are children involved.

This is a serious issue for both you and your partner, and the first step is that you make a decision.

If you choose to leave, do your partner the respect of doing it quickly and leaving him as much dignity as possible.

If you choose to stay, you must look at what your relationship needs: honesty, intimacy, enthusiasm, discovery and commitment. The ball is in your court.