Should I Marry My Boyfriend Even If Our Chemistry Is Lessening?

Should I Marry My Boyfriend Even If Our Chemistry Is Lessening?

Dear Evan, I'm in a four-year relationship with a truly amazing guy. He is thoughtful, considerate, and funny. We share many of the same interests, and we truly enjoy spending time together. We have been living in different cities for a couple of years now and have managed a great long-distance relationship.

I am about to take the plunge and move across the country to be with him, but I am plagued with doubt. As great as we are together, I am finding that the closer I get to moving, the less I am attracted to him. We've never had sensational chemistry, but I've told myself that it doesn't matter because he is such an amazing guy and we've enjoyed a fulfilling relationship despite that lack of spark.

Long story short, I am not sure if I am no longer finding him attractive because I am about to take a huge risk to be with him, or because the match is simply not right, or because (as awful as this sounds) I simply don't find him attractive. I feel like I am crazy to not be head over heels for him and I know that he deserves someone who thinks he's sexy -- and I want to be that person. He is my best friend, and I want so badly to have that missing piece in our relationship fulfilled. There must be a way to help jump-start a spark or better chemistry...right? –Sara

Dear Sara,

I have a few questions for you.

If you’re essentially “vacation” love – seeing each other once a month, talking or texting a couple times a week, your relationship is much weaker than a prototypical four-year relationship.

1. How often did you see your boyfriend over the past four years? Lots of long-distance relationships involve flying every other weekend, spending family holidays, taking full month leaves.

Yet I wonder how much your lives are truly intertwined after four years. Because if you’re essentially “vacation” love – seeing each other once a month, talking or texting a couple times a week, your relationship is much weaker than a prototypical four-year relationship.

2. How did you make it four years with this guy, given your lack of attraction? Because if I were to read into your short note, I think this is something you’re creating - your anxiety is actually TURNING this into a problem. Witness the evolution of your email, in which you get increasingly pessimistic in each paragraph:

Paragraph 1: “We have managed a great long-distance relationship.” (Which presumes that the sex was good, too, since that’s part of the relationship).

Paragraph 2: “The closer I get to moving, the less I’m attracted to him. We’ve enjoyed a fulfilling relationship despite that lack of spark.” (You’re acknowledging the issue and teetering.)

Paragraph 3: “I simply don’t find him attractive,” you write. (You’ve all but talked yourself out of your relationship.)

So which is it, Sara? Is it somewhat sexually fulfilling? Or is kissing him like kissing your brother - and you’ve been faking it for four straight years?

3. What would you do if you thought that your boyfriend had these feelings? Would you encourage him to break up with you – his amazing girlfriend of four years – to find a better “spark”? Or would you acknowledge that attraction generally goes down over time as familiarity increases?

I suspect that you want me to give you the permission to break up with him to find the spark, but that you wouldn’t want him to break up with you for the same reason. I suspect that most of our readers would feel the same way – you wouldn’t want your man to leave you because you put on ten pounds, got a little wrinkly, had a baby, gone prematurely grey, etc.

So what does this mean for you, Sara? It means whatever you make it mean. You could toss your boyfriend back in the sea in hopes of finding a man just like him with an amazing spark.

Chances are it would take you a few years of dating to find him, you’d get your greater chemistry, but you would discover that the new boyfriend lacks some of the qualities that the current guy has – maybe he’s emotionally unavailable, maybe he’s short tempered, maybe he never wants to get married.

Or you could stay with him, which is what I’d probably advise. And instead of focusing on what you don’t like about him, you focus on what you DO like about him – the same way you’d like him to do for you as you age. So maybe your knees don’t get weak when he approaches, but if he’s got a tongue, fingers, a penis and the desire to please you, I would suggest that you can have a great sex life, even if you don’t have that spine-tingling chemistry.

There’s no right answer. Just know the pros and cons of either choice you make. I think there are many men who can make you hot for an hour. I think there are a lot fewer with whom you’re comfortable building a life.

Join our conversation (50 Comments).
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Comments:

  1. 1
    LS

    Evan, you nailed it in those last two sentences. I think sometimes we women just need that little reminder. I hope the OP finds what she’s looking for, whether it’s already right in front of her or not.

  2. 2
    Donna

    “Never leave something good to find something better, because once you realize you had the best, the best will have found better.”

  3. 3
    Casey

    I SO agree with LS, the last line sums up finding” the one”, in a nutshell!
     

  4. 4
    Loverville

    Is there anything you can try to spice up the sex?   Maybe toys, role play, etc?   If you were attracted to him at one time, this can potentially help to revive those feelings.  
    Good luck!   

  5. 5
    Nene

    In general I disagree. If the feeling of romantic engagement is lacking now… It will still be lacking 10 years from now. Only by then breaking his heart will be least of your worries. Now you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of splitting up the retirement, real-estate and children.

    However, you can not assess the true nature of your relationship until you begin dating like a normal couple (ie non-long distance). At that point you can vet if the couplehood is striking a Security:Chemistry ratio that you can live with, and wholeheartedly invest in.

    1. 5.1
      aj

      I do not agree with Evan on this – no spark now but fine and use toys, etc. – years down the road, you will be tempted to stray towards real chemistry – you don’t even have anything to really break up at this point besides emotions – get out – particularly if you are young…

  6. 6
    sharon

    For me long distant relationships allow to fill in gaps with your own fantasies. So it may be the perception of him in your mind is starting to fade as your anticipating moving to be with him. And the realty of him isn’t as interesting as you daydreams.

  7. 7
    Laura S.

    Relationships don’t stay new and shiney forever.  It takes effort to keep the sparks alive.   Instead of treating them like gym socks and replacing them frequently, treat them like your best comfortable cashmere sweater.  They will last a lifetime!

  8. 8
    Saint Stephen

    @Laura S & sharon.
    Very Well Said. You gals will make great relationship coaches 😉

  9. 9
    Nadia

    Wow, Evan, I totally disagree! Sure, chemistry fades and sex loses some of its spine tingling, but if she’s lost all physical attraction to him over the course of this long distance relationship, it doesn’t bode well. Would she feel any differently if he was the one uprooting his life to move to her city? Her inner radar is shooting off a red flag, if you ask me. I would suggest she lovingly bow out and give him the opportunity to find someone a little less sisterly feeling.

  10. 10
    Laura S.

    I want to be a great relationship partner again….With man who compares to my favorite cashmere sweater and NOT gym socks.

    I try to coach my 3 daughters, only the youngest really listens.

  11. 11
    Barnett

    Evan you hit the nail on the head in response to her situation. It seems as if she allowed the fear or anxiety of taking the risk to move in with her boyfriend, overwhelm her thoughts and maybe her true feelings towards him.

    I agree with you Evan, it’s her choice but it may be wise to really consider the pros and cons. 

  12. 12
    Jane

    Take the pressure off yourself. Go ahead and move to be with him with the idea that there is a time limit. After six months or so, re-assess. If you still have enormous doubts about the relationship, move on. Don’t live with him, get your own space and see how it goes.
    Personally, I think chemistry and great sex are too de-emphasized in this blog. I’m not talking about infatuation, but chemistry meaning the feeling of being meaningfully connected to another person. Take it from me, I married a guy who had a lot of good qualities and would have made a great husband…. for someone else. I did not have great chemistry with him, but gave in to the advice of family, friends and a therapist to go ahead and commit because many of the ingredients were there, even though the chemistry wasn’t. And where did that lead? To a 17 year marriage that was disfunctional, lonely, filled with pain, lack of respect, and it almost crushed my spirit. I was slowly being eroded over time. Fortunately I got out in time to recover and start afresh. My experience is easy to avoid. Don’t make chemistry your only criteria for being with someone, but don’t underestimate the importance of it either… it does count. And hey, a lifetime of marginal sex just doesn’t cut it. Woman have the capacity for much greater fulfillment.

    1. 12.1
      Tara

      I am so grateful you posted that reply Jane. I am much like Sara, my inner red flags are blazing and there is such a desire to give to my partner what he deserves, but something is NOT right here. We both deserve a GREAT relationship and because he is my best friend, I have stayed for 7 years constantly ignoring my needs… but I ask him to touch me and once in a blue moon he’ll brush my arm when I am busy working or something. Now, it’s deteriorated so badly I am now repelled by his touch and yet still feel crushed as he ignores my signals, my eyes, my mouth, one kiss in 7 years! A quick “grandma kiss does not count!”. I feel like his mother or sister and I am SO CONFUSED. He says he loves me and tells me it’s in my head and tells me he has chemistry for me. WHAT!???? Are we supposed to die, dying to be held, kissed and connected to on a deeper level than watching TV or eating diner together?

      1. 12.1.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        No. Have the guts to break up with him instead of complaining that your relationship sucks. Unless you want to write this same email a year from now.

        1. Tara

          After reading all of the posts here, and seeing your response, I realize something. I have been taking for granted what imperfect gift I have been given. I complain from a selfish place, but I have a man who does truly love me. While there is not the passion I have experienced in past relationships, I also never had such a friend who has stood by me in illness and I stood by him in death of immediate family. Hence the reasons I(we) have stayed, from an unselfish place of love…there is someone I CAN build a life with and I will no longer complain. I will let go of my expectations and concentrate on what is good and how I can build up what is lacking from my end. Thanks!

    2. 12.2
      vincent

      If I am going to be totally honest with you.

      i think you are making a big mistake here.

      If it is not right and you have to overthink it. Obsess, worry, consider…. you deserve someone better/suites for you and the same for him,

       

  13. 13
    Diana

    I suspect there’s been an attraction issue from the beginning. She’s been able to work with her feelings about it because of their relationship being long distance, and because of all of the positive things she does enjoy about him and their relationship, and how very much she desperately wants to feel something for him that she doesn’t, especially after having invested four years. Making that big life decision to move across the country to be with him isn’t creating a new issue. Rather it’s shining a glaring spotlight on an issue that hadn’t fully seen the light of day.
     
    Her email evolved in the way that it did because she simply doesn’t want to admit and deal with the reality of what’s been there all along. She is continuing to avoid the issue by pointing out her justifications for what has come before now. She’s beginning to realize that those justifications are no longer enough.
     
    It’s incredibly hard to walk away from an otherwise good thing, but I really do not believe that moving to be with him is wise. It doesn’t matter why she feels as she does. It’s not fair to either of them. She’ll move and likely start to feel resentment toward him; possibly even blame him for her feelings and her decision. In reality, she should listen very quietly and carefully to her inner voice which is screaming at her for a reason.

  14. 14
    P

    I’ve been looking at these comments, especially the ones who say they disagree with Evan because of reasons like “if the chemistry is fading now, imagine what it will be like in 10 years.”  I’m just shaking my head…

    When, and I mean WHEN are people going to get it.  When are people (and I hate to say this, especially women…but men can be like this too) going to understand that physical chemistry is TEMPORARY except in a very VERY small minority of people who scientists believe have some kind of genetic abnormality (and they number less, and I mean LESS than 1% of the population).  

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again…it doesn’t matter what you believe, the studies, the facts, and so forth basically point out (which everyone ignores) that your biology DOES NOT CARE if you are “happy” as an intelligent person.  It DOES NOT CARE that you are, in fact intelligent. It DOES NOT CARE if that person who tingles your spine and makes you weak in the knees is good for your mental health and happiness or not. Your biology…that primitive side of you…is in fact completely AGAINST that concept. Its going to DRUG you (LITERALLY) with dopamine and a number of other powerful chemicals to get you high as a kite so that you ignore every warning sign. You will not even rationally evaluate the “connection” on any basis of mental health, happiness, or so forth because you are HIGH and are going to feel GREAT about that person.  If that were permanent, many would say no problem.

    It ISN’T.

    Because your biology cares only about ONE THING and ONE THING only.  The species.  Not YOU as an individual.  It cares only about getting you high as a kite long enough to create offspring.  That’s it…and when its done, it goes and starts shifting those chemicals around after a time and that “spark” goes away.  And guess what…you start to realize OTHER people are causing that spark…oh my.  Yes, that’s your biology at work…saying its time to mix genes again with someone different.

    When we were less intelligent and primitive, this is perfectly acceptable.  In the modern world, where we DO have a functioning higher brain that wants partnership, stability, and support…someone to lean on to face an ever-more complicated world…its not so acceptable or desirable.  Sure, if you’re in it for the thrill, then have fun with it while you can.  But…reality is going to set in.  You’re going to get older, and if you haven’t made this transition, you may verw ell end up being alone…very alone as your prospects diminish.  Or you might end up in a mid-life crisis, trying to recapture all of this on some psychological level, spinning your life out of control hunting for passion…only to find out that the same thing happened all over again.

    You want a GREAT relationship?  STOP focusing on sex, sexuality, and on that biological procreational instinct.  Goodness…yes, sex is fun, and the reality is you can have fun sex with just about anyone if your attitude is right. Its all about attitude…those that have great relationships aren’t looking at them from the perspective of what they GET…but rather what they CREATE.  You have that higher mind of yours…start USING it.  Stop evaluating relationships based on what gets you HIGH or HOT and rather evaluate them as to what fulfills your emotional needs (and by emotional needs, I seriously mean to stop mixing that biological instinct with REAL emotional needs).

    Here’s a pretty good example…would you marry someone simply because they give a great backrub (seriously) but otherwise don’t mix well with you?  Of course not!  But people are marrying one another all the time because they get each other HOT…and really have no clue otherwise.  Think carefully…how much sex do you REALLY have?  In a year’s time, how much sex?  Let’s assume you are having it once a day…for even an average of 30 minutes a day (and sorry folks…the real average is in the 8-15 minute mark).  Then you’re having 182.5 hours of sex every year (and remember, this is a REALLY generous allotment…most people have far less sex than once a day).  182.5 hours in a year…that’s IT.  That’s around 2.1% of your time in the year.  So…what about the other 98% of the time?  Seems to me you should be focusing on being around someone you enjoy in other ways FAR MORE than the sex part given that 98% of your time together has NOTHING to do with sex.  Now, put that in the perspective that as time progresses, that 2.1% is going to get SMALLER as you have sex less, and that 98% is going to get larger.

    Wait…you think this is describing a friendship?  BINGO!  You want something that’s going to last the test of time then what you really want is a deep, meaningful friendship with a good attitude about creating emotional intimacy, and a thorough understanding of yourself as a HIGHER FUNCTIONING person.  REAL love is creating something with someone that has nothing to do with sex.  Sex is an act…that’s it.

    Oh, and don’t tell me that finding a deep meaningful and intimate friendship is easy…one that stands the test of all time.  Its not.  Finding someone to get your hot is easy.  Thinking you can have both for all time…well, that’s the American way.  Look how well that attitude is working out.

    Sorry for the diatribe…I’m just tired of seeing people blindly pound that sexual attraction drum over and over and then seeing them over time with failed relationship after failed relationship.  Alone, wondering why it didn’t work out for them…why that faery tale didn’t happen.  Tired of seeing people give advice to people telling them to walk away from someone they feel is an amazing person and that they enjoy because the “spark” isn’t so hot (and you can have EVERYTHING! CALL NOW!  OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY!) then seeing those people who follow that advice in tumultuous unstable relationships that end up nowhere, or end up alone, or divorced with kids, and so on and so forth.  

    How do I know this personally?  I’ve DONE it.  REPEATEDLY.  I had to get hit in the head with it over and over before I finally figured it out.  And once I came to the realization that what I put into a relationship, attitude wise, and what I CHOSE to create defined how successful and happy the relationship was, things started working out.
                                         

    1. 14.1
      Androgynous

      Totally totally agree with one small qualification – you must have some base level of attraction for your partner – I recall Evan saying this in one of this earlier blogs. Sexual chemistry is not the be all and end all but then again, you cannot ever ever build a meaningful relationship with someone whom you find physically repulsive. You cannot build emotional intimacy if you cannot even bear looking into the eye of your “beloved” and cringe everytime he or she touches you.

    2. 14.2
      Stacy

      @P

      I think this is the best post that I have ever read on Evan’s blog from a contributor. Thank you for this.

  15. 15
    Sharon

    @ Diana,

    Agreed a thousand times over. Don’t uproot your life if you’re not sure. 

  16. 16
    Ronnie Ann Ryan - The Dating Coach for Women Over 40

    As a dating coach for women, what I’d like to know is what is the longest period of time you have spent together? Have you even spent two consecutive weeks with him? If you have and you got along well, and especially if you were traveling, you learned a lot about your compatibility. That is a good test of a relationship because that is an intense period to be with someone who doesn’t do it for you.
    If you haven’t spend an extended period, then that is the next step I recommend before uprooting. Even if you have to take a short leave of absence from your job, spend some quality time together. If you still don’t know after that, then your decision would likely be not to move.
    It would be a shame if you allow rising fear to inhibit you from being in a great relationship. Attraction doesn’t have to be “sky rockets at night” to work well for a couple in love.
     

  17. 17
    Sharon

    @P

    I agree in most relationships probably go from a boil to a simmer in the passion department. But if you don’t like being kissed by your parent, you find holding hands an arduous task. Sex is an obligation and you want to get it over with as fast a possible that’s going to mess of the intimacy of the relationship not just the sexual.  

  18. 18
    helene

    P #14 you said  “98% of your time together has nothing to do with sex” as if the time you spend actually copulating is the only time when “sex” comes into a relationship. I would totally disagree with that. Sex, as in, your sexual RELATIONSHIP, is present 100% of the time – for better or worse. Sex is not an “activity” it is an axis of the relationship, a thread that runs through it.Within a relationship you have an emotional bond, an intellectual bond, a domestic bond, possibly a spiritual bond…AND a sexual bond. These bonds, or threads, weave the fabric of your relationship, they create its substance, its tone, and they are always there whether you are focusing on that particular axis of the relatonship or not. A poor sexual connection is as damaging as a poor emotional connection or a poor domestic connection – not all threads of the relationship will be equally strong, but all the threads need to be strong ENOUGH for you to feel that that part of the relationship WORKS. If not, the whole fabric will unravel.

    1. 18.1
      mojo

      I agree with the above completely. After a year and a half of a good relationship, with a weak attraction to my partner, I can say that I could not overcome that. The basic attraction runs through the whole relationship like a river giving water to the land of your emotional health. You must have strong attraction or the stress of the weak attraction will make you feel so confused and sick, even if you deeply love your partner as I did.

  19. 19
    AllenB

    @Sharon  17
    Reread your second sentence very carefully. Then think hard about what it is you really want from your partner. You may want to understand your typo before you get involved in a relationship.

  20. 20
    Nene

    @ Jane
    It was refreshing to see your comment. Because that is my life (16 years married). So folks can promote the irrelevance of basic chemistry all day long. It doesn’t sway my opinion nor change my experience.

    And like you, I agree that chemistry is not everything. However it should not be discounted as one of many significant bonding elements that contribute to holding a modern longterm union together.

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