Help! My boyfriend/roommate has less time for me than he used to, and now I feel like I'm sabotaging my relationship with insecurity and anxiety. Help me deal with this without being crazy and treating my already-stressed boyfriend badly.
posted by anonymous to human relations (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I met my fella last summer, when he moved into my commune-like apartment (we're mostly college students, and there are several of us living here full time, plus assorted friends and vagabonds sleeping on the couches every so often). He moved in because he'd lived here in the past, was part of our social group, and because he was starting up a little business nearby and had been crashing at our place more or less every night for a month or so anyway after staying at the store late working on the space. I was already seeing someone else, but he was overseas for the summer and though I didn't really notice current-fella at first, I eventually found myself feeling uncontrollably drawn to cuddle up with him. And so it started.
After a week or two of cuddling and sleeping together in the evenings, we started actually sleeping together - and it was great! He was sufficiently rough and adventurous and it was just lovely. We had lots of great sex, snuggled up together almost every night, and didn't talk too much about where things were going. It was around this time that he formally moved in - which meant putting a bunch of bookshelves of his belongings in a corner of the living room and calling one of the couches his bed - but at this point he always slept with me, so that didn't seem to matter.
It wasn't all rosy - even though we spent lots of time together (aside from evening cuddles, mostly in the form of long trips to the hardware store for building supplies) - I was kind of anxious about the fact that we rarely talked. I joke these days that our early dates consisted of "going to the hardware store and not talking to each other". Basically, I felt like I was getting to know him and falling in love with him - or something - without any real exchange of words or confirmation that he felt anything similar (aside from the fact that he kept asking me to go to the hardware store with him!) I always felt like I was chasing him - waiting around for him, hoping he'd come home, heart jumping a little bit when I heard the front door open because it might be him, and so on. I still feel this way, most of the time. But I've historically tended toward anxiety and obsession in my relationships, and at the time it generally seemed less consuming in this one than in others.
He also made things clear at the beginning that he wasn't going to be monogamous. I was basically fine with that, though I've historically been pretty vanilla in that respect - but I've slept around more than he has since our thing started (he's only slept with other people in my company). Our place is the center of a large and pretty bohemian social group, so this wasn't that unusual. I've actually found the whole non-monogamy thing pretty liberating - I used to spend a lot of time worrying about being attracted to other people or falling in love with other people, and now I don't. But I do get a little jealous when he's affectionate with his ex, who's part of our social group and who I felt awkward around even before I knew she'd dated him.
So for the first five or six months, I was maybe a little uneasy but basically happy. And I was particularly happy because I wasn't being faced with any weird co-dependent relationship drama - I'd had some trouble with that kind of thing in the past (both on my end and from my partners). But me and current-fella would cook each other dinner, wash each other's dishes, and generally co-exist happily and without too much blazing intensity. Nice quiet domestic romance, from my perspective.
Now things are completely different. I seem to have become a completely insecure wreck, and I'm worried that I'm going to ruin things. And while I know that things will probably turn out for the best even if we break up, etc. I still want to see if I can just stop acting like a nut and keep things afloat.
Here's how this phase began:
At a certain point, some time in mid-January, he started seeming a little agitated about being "stuck". He'd tease me occasionally about being his girlfriend (and I'd always say, "I'm not your girlfriend!" - though eventually I agreed that I guessed I was his girlfriend - I don't know why I had such a thing about it), and he made some remark at some point along the lines of, "how'd things get so serious with us?" And he'd talk about being stuck with me, and more importantly stuck with the store (which at this point was beginning to take up much more of his time and was a considerable source of financial stress). We weren't sure if our lease on the apartment was going to be renewed, and he talked apparently half-alarmedly, half-pleasedly about us looking for an apartment together and moving there with some of the other roommates.
(Historical note: he grew up traveling a good deal and since college has traveled a lot himself - and he's definitely missing the freedom of movement he's lost as a result of his business debt).
By February, the store was stressing him out even more. He even broke out in a rash at a certain point, which we theorized was stress related. He stopped taking care of household stuff in the apartment, like washing dishes (though he'd traditionally been my ally in harassing the other roommates to wash their dishes). And he started sleeping with me (in either sense) less and less.
(Historical note: he's told me that he's long had problems getting up in the morning, and that it's much harder for him to get up if he's sleeping with someone - so he wants to sleep alone ostensibly because it'll make it easier for him to get up in the morning. But back when we were always sleeping together, in the early days of the store, he'd often have to get up even earlier - around 5am sometimes - and though he did often oversleep, he still slept with me...)
For some reason, not going to sleep with him completely freaks me out. At first I'd cry myself to sleep, and then avoid talking about it with him, hoping things would straighten themselves out on their own. But they didn't - currently he sleeps with me maybe two nights a week. He works at the store 5-13 hours a day 5-7 days a week, and often ends up working on store stuff or doing freelance work on the side - or just reading to destress - until late at night. When he does this, he's completely inaccessible - in another world, basically. We rarely go anywhere or do anything together, he seems to dread going to work, and I feel wrenchingly lonely, neglected, and as if talking to him about it will only make everything worse because it'll stress him out more.
But unfortunately, I talk to him anyway. It started one night when I decided that I couldn't stand being so sad when I tried to go to sleep alone. I went to him - he was on the couch in his "room" - and told him I was sad about being alone and asked if he'd come sleep with me. He refused, but I persisted and cried a bit and eventually he semi-reluctantly came and slept with me. The next evening was Valentine's Day. He apologized for "being an asshole" over dinner. I told him he hadn't been an asshole.
If this had been a one-time thing, it probably would have been just fine - but I've started going in and bugging him - in what I know is his only free time, in what I know is his only semi-private space - more or less every night! It's compulsive, and very hard to stop myself from doing if I'm in that mood. When I do this, I'm usually feeling lonely and worrying that "he doesn't really like me" and feeling resentful about not having spent any time with him that day or about him "never paying any attention to me" and things like that. I have no real idea of how rational or reasonable any of these feelings are (he legitimately has very little free time these days - but I legitimately hardly see him most days, too). I've never lived with a partner before, and I suspect that's part of the problem - particularly since this one doesn't have any real space of his own. But regardless of rationality, I continue to have these episodes of intense unhappiness - though most of the time I wake up in the morning alone and feel fine, like a different person, not insecure or worried at all, except about the consequences of my complaints and vague threats to break up with him and things like that. And I don't know what to do. I don't want to torment him when he's stressed and depressed (and I really do feel like I'm being at least partially unreasonable) - but I don't want to be sad and preoccupied so much of the time. But I do like him a lot, he's wonderful and not like anyone I've ever met. I miss how things used to be.
I wish he'd comfort and reassure me, but he doesn't seem very good at that - and this seems like something I should be able to do myself, anyway, and really more my job than his (even if I think otherwise when I'm at my worst). But I haven't had much success, and simply waiting for it to go away takes a long time - and I'm trying to finish my bachelor's thesis and need to be able to focus on work!
So, what's worked for you? What might work for me?