Does your relationship have an expiration date?

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In July, A & I will have been dating for two years. This is pretty much the longest relationship since my marriage ended. I love this man, and I am happy, but I worry that for me, being coupled has a time stamp.

My friend L is one of those women who’s got a new beau, almost like clockwork, every two years.  Whether they’re dating, living together, or even engaged, L somehow seems to start looking elsewhere around the two-year line.  

“She’s addicted to that NRE (new relationship energy),” a mutual friend said. “I don't think she see’s it, but she’s got a two year clock.”

I don't think I’m one of those people, I don’t want to be, and yet I do feel like the routine of every day life has come crashing down on me and A.  Two workaholics with tons to do, we've definitely dialed back on the snuggling and hugging this spring as tons of deadlines, the challenging economy, and crisis of the week have all kicked in. Things aren't bad, but the high-definition romance of a year or so ago has definitely calmed.

And that scares me no end.

You see, the way I finally started to notice what was happening in my marriage was that the love and affection was gradually being withdrawn. The hugs, the kisses, the tender moments, they were all shut down. 30 pounds of weight later, I still didn’t have what I wanted, and I finally understood there were REASONS on my husband’s side( which I am not going to share here) that were too late to fix (if they were fixable by anyone but him.)

Point is, as A & I calm, I find myself going back to that same emotional place. Every time things aren’t great, I worry I am hitting the end of my marriage—again. Only this seems like a fight or flight syndrome, worry misapplied more than the true reality.

You see, what’s painful is that I see myself making some of the same mistakes over again. I hope A won’t notice I am obsessed with my work, unable—or unwilling—to distinct from my cell phone/net connection for more than 2 hours at a time—and not always the best listener for things I don’t want to hear. But I know he notices—and I know it bothers him.

At the same time, I feel the temptation to just give in to starting up with someone else new again. There’s an allure to finding someone who will laugh at all my jokes, think I’m enchantingly great (and not see my annoying traits) and be easy to please. Again. And again and again.

But it’s always going to come down to this: when real life comes due, when we’re done with our very best behavior, the people who love us have to accept us as we are, even if it’s highly imperfect.

At the same time I worry whether A will accept me, I ask myself if I am really willing to accept him.  Wouldn’t it be easier just to start all over again with someone new, whose faults were not so familiar? Isn’t there a high from re relationship energy that glosses over flaws, at least until familiarity sets in?

And so it goes, the circular reasoning (and circular waste-basket) of relationship navel-gazing, worry and doubt.

Only A and I finally talked it out.

Last weekend, when I was halfway through writing this essay, I told him what I was writing about (and thinking and worrying about). We ended up having one of those marathon talks that, for all the angry tough moments and difficult outbursts, end in the two people feeling like they’ve improved their communication and become more connected ( I think). We said a lot of things to each other, all heart-felt, and now I have more resolutions to act on and think through. I think we both felt heard.

And now that we have talked, I don’t feel like I could lose interest because it’s been two years.  I feel like I’d like to do the work (and have the closeness) to make it twenty. (Only…there are some moments….and I'm going to try to do better on working the issues out.)

How has the expiration date theme been a part of--or absent from--your relationships? Post in the comments, please.

From the blog-o-sphere and worth a read:

Datingish.com: I hate expiration dating:

"I'm about a year and three months into the third relationship, and even though everything is great, I'm still psyching myself out thinking I have a year left until something does go wrong. It's silly, but I can't help think there might really be an expiration date for my relationships.”

Hardt Out of the City: On borrowed time

“But the real question is, how long can I wait for someone who probably isn’t ever going to want to be with just me? If after 2 months he doesn’t know, I think we both already have that answer… which is just plain old no I don’t want to be in a relationship with you. And maybe it’s because of the place he's at in his life, maybe it’s the distance, his age, my annoying pressuring of him or maybe it’s just me… I don't know if I will ever know. But for now I’m going to wait it out a bit longer because the truth of the matter is I do like him.”

I love you like macaroni and cheese: the expiration date of a hug and the shelf life of anger

“I'm being told at work that I am always angry. They don't even have to tell me, I am so aware of it. And I'm embarrassed but I can't reel it in. I'm angry about being sick. I'm angry that I work with people who think they won't catch the swine flu from eating a ham sandwich because ham comes from a cow. I'm angry because I think I'm a failure and I'm lonely and without speed and starving myself it's big man, it's really BIG and there is no getting away. I'm being stalked by my own mind.”

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