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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 22 March, 2018

Dear Fifi: I'm still in my first ever relationship - am I settling? Is this it?

Dear Fifi back at it again.


Last week of September. Have you already flicked the heating on you heathen? My advice is stick another jumper on and wait until October. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but heating in September just feels a bit wrong. 

That gut feeling – about a job, relationship, situation or the heating bill – is rarely wrong. Just like me!


Dear Fifi,

I am  many years into my first relationship. It’s my significant other’s first relationship too. My question is how do I know if it’s any good? I’m worldly enough to know that every relationship has plenty of problems, triumphs, neuroses and irritations.

Maybe I’m terrible at sex. Maybe I’m taking my partner for granted. Maybe it’s the other way around, and I’m actually great and I’m settling for far less than I deserve. I have no idea.

I get pangs of uncertainty. I don’t know if that’s part of the deal, or if it’s something more serious. Are the bad times bad enough to break things off, but I don’t realise? Are the good times actually as good as anyone could hope for and I’m just a miserable ingrate?

It feels like a betrayal to be this uncertain after so long, and it’s scary to be uncertain about such a massive part of my life. The only thing scarier than staying in the relationship is leaving it.

It is the way of things. Every choice in our lives cuts off other possibilities. Taking a right means not taking a left. We can’t have it all the ways – and we can’t allow ourselves to become paralysed by being too aware of that.

You mention “neuroses” and truly this is the word that does spring to mind in reading your (far longer) letter. You’re over-thinking this and you’ve gotten yourself tail-chasing. You’re very possibly creating problems that aren’t there – maybe due to genuine itchy feet, perhaps just grass is always greener syndrome, maybe due to boredom, or simple dissatisfaction.

Every so often, I get questions like these. Borderline unanswerable questions, I mean. I say that because I can’t possibly tell you what to do here. Either you love your partner and are in it for the long haul, or you need to spread your wings and see what’s out there with others. Only you can decide this. I can’t tell how you feel. I can’t tell you what you need to do to get happy. You haven’t even really told me much about your actual relationship or feelings.

Without more information, it’s hard for me to say much more. I will offer this rule of thumb that has always stood me in good stead, though. When faced with making an impossible-seeming decision, where both outcomes appear either equally dreadful or desirable, try to imagine how you’d feel if suddenly one wasn’t an option any more. Rather than trying to see which you want more, try to summon up how you’d feel if suddenly one was taken away from you.

Which galls you more? The idea of your partner being taken away, or permanently closing off the possibility of new romantic experiences?

You have to make that call. When you’ve made a decision, firmly put this mental wrestling match to bed for good, for your own sake and your partner’s too. Good luck.


Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

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