Itching for a change

I've been in a relationship for eight years but I fear commitment and crave experience. What should I do?

By Cary Tennis

Published May 17, 2004 7:35PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I am a late-20s lesbian who's been with my partner of eight years since we were in college. We were both each other's "firsts" and have withstood numerous relocations around the U.S. while we pursued our individual goals through travel and education.

I care for my partner very much. She is a creative, compassionate, dependable woman who is a wonderful companion and friend. But I don't know if I love her anymore. I had a fling a couple of years ago with someone I would never dream of being with beyond the bedroom, but it really triggered in me a longing to date around, try new relationships with new people, or just be single -- things I've never really experienced. I initially hid and then confessed the affair to my partner, and we've been a little distant ever since. We've managed fairly well to regain trust in one another (she, too, had an affair about a year before I did) and so we plod along in our lives.

The thought of truly committing (through a commitment ceremony) to this relationship scares the hell out of me. I have this nagging fear that I'm with my partner out of habit and convenience. Am I being selfish for questioning my relationship and wanting the chance to grow without consideration of someone else? Or is this just cold feet at the thought of making public to our families and friends that we're in it for the long haul (we're both completely out, so the gay thing isn't an issue). My single friends say if I'm not happy I should move on. My coupled friends say anyone who thinks a relationship isn't a ton of work must be delusional. What do you think?

Stuck in the Midwest

Dear Stuck in the Midwest,

It sounds like you are at a turning point in your life, like you're ready to go out and have more experiences. But I suggest before you do so you try to look more deeply at what is driving you to explore. What kind of experiences are you looking for? What do you feel has been missing? Is there an ideal life that you have never imagined in detail but which seems to hover over the horizon like a vague, tantalizing dream? If so, try to bring it into focus. Make it tangible to yourself. Visualize where you're trying to go. It might help to find some counselor to talk this over with -- to help you look at your history and understand the narrative your life is developing.

That is, almost anything can be a positive change if you approach it as a meaningful chapter in your life. On the other hand, impulsive, radical changes can torment you all your days: Why did I do that, anyway? What was I thinking?

So I think you're ready for a change, but I caution you to get some help understanding where you're headed before you walk out the door.

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Cary Tennis

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