Ask Swan: I can't stick with relationships for more than a few months

Dear Swan,

I’m a single man in my mid-30s. I haven’t been in a long-term relationship for 3 years, but I’ve dated a lot since then with a few medium-term flings. I’m having fun, but beginning to think I’d like to settle down. But even though most of the girls I meet are great, and good fits in theory, I get bored easily and can’t seem to commit for longer than a few months. I don’t want to waste their time so I end things. Am I doing something wrong or just not meeting the right people?




Dear Jon,

It’s not unusual for men and women to have different timelines when it comes to settling down, as you allude to in your letter. That doesn’t have to be a problem: it’s also normal for men to date women a year or two younger than themselves.

But the real problem here doesn’t seem to be timing. You say that you get bored with each date after a few months: what is it about the first few weeks of a relationship that you feel unable to sustain for longer periods? Novelty is wonderful, and nothing beats the thrill of new love, but needing it all the time suggests that something might have gone askew.

How happy are you with other areas of your life? It’s a cliché, but an important one: are you challenged enough at work? Do you have hobbies and interests that stimulate you? Can you talk to your friends about your passions? It sounds like the answer to one or all of those might be no, and you’re turning to romance to provide the excitement that’s missing elsewhere. 

There’s nothing wrong with that unless, as you say, you want to think about settling down. In that case, you need to find a source of joy and novelty that can stay constant when a fresh relationship begins to lose its glamour. Otherwise, you’re demanding something impossible from your partners: nobody can maintain infinite variety forever.

Another possibility is that you’re using romance as a distraction from something that’s wrong in your life. If you’re not happy with yourself, it’s very hard to find a stable and healthy relationship, because your negative self-view will eventually taint your view of your partner too.

Repeatedly ditching partners after short periods of whirlwind romance could also indicate that there’s something about commitment, and perhaps emotional vulnerability or honesty, that intimidates you. If the idea of someone getting close enough to know you well is uncomfortable, perhaps you’ve found your answer.

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