Dear Miss Emily:

I'm a 25 year old male who has been in relationship with my high school sweetheart for 7 years now.  We've lived together for 4 years before I moved out to begin grad work in a different city (an agreement that was stated from the beginning). There is no doubt in my mind that I love this woman, and exhaust my efforts to keep and make her happy, however I find myself extremely annoyed when I'm around her.  With this recent move, I now live on my own and have myself happier than I've been in a long time.  I'm not sure what to make of this, and I'm honestly remorseful for thinking this way.  What do you suppose this means for my relationship with the woman I love?

----------------------------Miss Emily's advice----------------------

First of all, you are probably relieved you no longer have to "exhaust" yourself in your efforts to keep her happy. After seven years of togetherness, and especially considering when this relationship began (high school) your sense of freedom must be tantamount to popping "happy" pills. That said, I do not discount the fact that there are relationships of this kind that last a lifetime and are the envy of friends and family. But this may not be the case for you, and you are going to have to take a hard look at it. Living alone is a radial new change in your life and now you have only you to contend with -- and it's a relief; especially to someone who is career oriented and has just entered graduate school. This new direction, alone, will alter your ability to spend time with her. Your new situation has opened up your eyes to the world before you and has significantly altered your view of the past. And maybe that's what she is beginning to represent -- your past. Perhaps you're annoyed by her because you have now stepped out of the time-warp and see things more clearly. Of course you love her. But sometimes love isn't enough when feelings change and your new shape no longer fits the old. What you are feeling should be free of guilt. There is no crime in getting in touch with your emotions but, in time, you will need to be honest with your girlfriend about these feelings if this is not just a momentary lapse. You can't be forced to feel a different way, and she shouldn't want you out of some misguided obligation. Above all, if your feelings are earnest, avoid going through the motions of pretending all is well when it isn't. It only prolongs the inevitable.