In her former life, Emily “Gynomite” Gordon was a couples and family therapist licensed in 2 1/2 states. In this life, she would love to take a crack at your emotional dilemmas. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org- all emails stay confidential. You can also check her out on her weekly column over at Lemondrop. Today, Gynomite takes on the dregs of long term relationships.
I’ve been with my boyfriend for about three years, and we live together, and in the past few months, everything he does just annoys the shit out of me. I don’t want to break up with him because I love him, but seriously, I just want to tell him to shut up a lot of the time. Is this normal for long relationships?
It is perfectly normal to feel annoyed by someone you’re spending your life with, absolutely. But you’re going to have to fix your response to it.
If you love this guy, and you’re not telling me you want to leave but rather asking if this is a normal part of long term relationships, let me give you some pointers.
One thing that I learned in my years with clients is that as much as we want to believe that change always comes from the inside, that’s bullshit. Change doesn’t always come from the inside. Sometimes, you have to “fake it till you make it”, and you have to mimic what a changed person would be doing, behavior-wise, before you start feeling any different. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you think about everyone’s lives as if we’re all in our own reality shows, all we have are the cameras following us around. (Forget the “confessionals”) If a camera were following you and your boyfriend around, would you guys look like a couple in love? If not, why not? Surely at one point you looked like a couple in love, and if so, how could other people tell? Those are the behaviors you need to start doing again.
Sometimes we get so used to having someone else around that we can’t see the beautiful relationship forest we’ve grown for all the day to day “You didn’t do the dishes” trees. So my advice to you is to think back on all the things you used to do for him and to him when you first got together- resting your head on his shoulder, kissing him while making dinner together, dressing up for him when he gets home and then giggling about it- and you need to do them again.
The rule I try to keep in mind is that every single day when my husband and I wake up, I want both of us to look at each other and say “Yeah, I still want to be right here with you!” Staying with someone because you’ve been with them a long time and you share things vs. staying with someone because every day they give you new reasons to stay with them is a radical shift in thought, but it’s very necessary for happy long relationships.