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LOVE LETTERS

The thrill is gone. Now what?

She wonders if she’s being unrealistic about everlasting passion

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / October 1, 2011

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Q. My boyfriend, Tom, and I are in our early 30s. We have known each other for a decade, have been together for a few years, and live together. We met through friends.

From the first moment Tom and I met, we always had a strong attraction to each other, and there were several times when we almost got together, but the timing was never right. One or both of us was always involved with someone else. We would see each other at our friends’ dinner parties and on group vacations, we’d flirt and banter, and then we’d go home alone or with our respective significant others. This (admittedly) caused some friction for both of us with our respective exes, but for years and years, nothing ever happened between us. It took us a long time to get together.

Why the letter? Well, I don’t know what I expected after all that drama and pent-up attraction. There were a few fireworks at first, but after a couple of months they quickly burned out, and what I ended up with was a pretty easy, reasonably happy, very comfortable, mutually supportive relationship with a great friend. That is all fine and dandy, but over the course of the past year or so I have started to feel some disappointment. I realize how ungrateful that sounds, and I feel insanely guilty about that. I do love Tom and am happy with him, for the most part. But we are probably intimate once a week, and it’s a pretty routine experience. We kiss, and it is a friendly, affectionate hello or goodnight, but nothing reminiscent of us passionately making out when we first got together. I feel like we have already fallen into the pattern of an old married couple, and it has only been a few years of dating.

I know I could be reasonably happy with Tom for a long time in our predictable, comfortable, somewhat celibate life together. I guess when our relationship was still hypothetical, I just always expected something more. More fire, more heat, more something. I don’t know. He says that he loves me more than anything and that he doesn’t know what the problem is with our “lack of passion.’’ How do you infuse the fire back into a relationship after it has burned out?

Maybe the problem is me and my expectations. Have I seen too many romantic comedies? Am I expecting something that just doesn’t happen in real life? Do I just need to get over myself and be happy with my comfortable, predictable relationship?

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER HARRY MET SALLY,

New England

A. You know, the sex scene in “When Harry Met Sally’’ isn’t very inspiring. It’s really about two people falling into each other’s arms. It’s not “Last Tango in Paris.’’

The good news is, based on what you’ve told us, Tom’s bored, too. That means he’ll want to work with you to make this better.

The sex thing seems to be the big problem, so I’d start with that. Can you talk to him about what you need? (Be specific, because spicy talk can lead to spice.) Can you set aside time for more vacations? (Visiting a new, romantic place can help move spicy things along.)

I can’t say for sure whether your problem is you or your relationship, but I do know that doubts are doubts, no matter what. All relationships go through lulls, but you’re telling us that the fireworks and euphoria burned out after just a few months. You’ve been with this guy for years. That’s more than a lull.

Try to work on the spice, but if it feels weird and forced, you have your answer. Most couples lose the fireworks, but they tend to fall into a routine that they love. You don’t love your routine.

Your dramatic drum roll with Tom is pretty much irrelevant now. It’s the real relationship stuff that counts.

MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND:

Proof that the grass isn’t always greener. You thought this was going to be a long-lasting passionate love affair, because that’s what you built up in your head. Unfortunately, this isn’t “The Office,’’ and you aren’t Jim and Pam. STJOESPIRIT04

The thrill is gone. Now what?Are you in love with Tom? Neither of you should settle for “reasonably happy.’’ If you are in love, then do what Meredith suggested and spice things up. Because it sounds like you both may have stopped making an effort after the first few months, thinking the spark would continue. Successful relationships require work. They are worth it, though. LILY

Besides the sex stuff, what do you guys do as a couple? Date nights? Is there something you both share that maybe you can spend more time doing? Like a love of hiking? Would you miss him if he was gone? Do you two argue? I was caught off guard that you two went into this routine after only a few months. I don’t know if that says a lot, but it leapt out at me. EMPIRE-IN-ASHES

There are different kinds of love in a relationship. There is the initial love, the so-called “honeymoon period’’ where everything is easy and effortless and thrilling. You and he are totally consumed with each other. But couples can’t stay that way forever. Eventually, the real world of jobs and bills and mundane tasks creeps back in, and it takes effort to keep your bond alive. I think some people are in love with being in love, meaning they have to have that initial burning love all the time, so they move from relationship to relationship. You’ve had the thrill of the chase, the conquest, and now the ever after. I think you can make this work, but it will take effort. And it will be this way with any relationship. Relationships take a lot of work. Communication is the biggest thing. Find a way to ask for what you need. AFLYONTHEWALL

I have never seen a romantic comedy where the story line was designed around a predictable comfortable somewhat celibate life together. Even the Waltons churned out kids on a regular basis. DAVEH7373

So you had a cool friendship with a bit of sexual tension. You decided to give it a whirl, and after the pants party was over, realized you are both meant to be very good friends. It happens. Break up and be friends again, like you were meant to. DIAMONDGIRL

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.