Is she needy or is it me?
January 24, 2011 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Am I an a-hole or is she really emotionally needy and insecure?

Hey everyone, I need some relationship advice to determine if I should leave this relationship.

I've been dating a girl for over a ear, and things are/were going really well. I understand she is under alot of stress so I've been cutting her some slack with leaning on me more since we've started dating partially due to the natural progression of a relationship and the stress. However, her clingyness has started to wear on me and I've asked for some space. Nothing major, just not spending every weekend night and day together. Last time I asked her for some space, she started crying so I relented and gave up. We are now spending more time together then ever, and not by my choice. I've tried to tell her how I feel, and every time I ask for something - she starts crying and generally acting insecure. I've never given her a reason to be insecure or for her to distrust me - quite the opposite. Well tonight, I asked her for more space again and it caused a fight. So she is currently in my room crying, curled up in a ball. The sad thing is - I don't actually feel bad about asking anymore, I'm more annoyed that all I've asked for is for a day on the weekend to myself and she is crying over it.

I've been there, listening, giving advice, and holding her when she needed it. All I ask for is a night to myself to sit on my couch without her or to go out with the guys. I've explained that the time we spend together is causing me to take it for advantage, not appreciate it as much, and how much more I would appreciate seeing her with a day in between. None of it matters, she still thinks I'm going to bang another girl or leave her. I've never asked her for anything emotionally more then the normal with the exception of this. But seriously, I've spent entire weekends cuddling with her because that's what she wanted or needed. She isn't bad about needing to talk 24/7 or needing to know where I'm at all the time but needing to be constantly physically in contact is annoying.

Maybe I am an a-hole but is asking for space cause for her curling up in a ball on the floor and crying? Remember, all I've asked for is 1 night to myself a weekend.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You're not getting what you want out of this relationship despite asking in a kind way for an amount of time alone that is commonly taken without comment. In your shoes, I would try to explain things to her at greater length, and if that didn't result in the necessary amount of time alone, I would plan to end the relationship.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:47 AM on January 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

So she is currently in my room crying, curled up in a ball.

Sounds like emotional blackmail to me.
posted by ian1977 at 7:50 AM on January 24, 2011 [38 favorites]

If she's really depressed and/or anxious, she may be too frightened by your absence to be able to recognize your need for your own time--she may not be able to think beyond the most pressing, immediate need of the moment. So it's not a question of "should she do this?" or "is she being too needy?" She's not making a choice, exactly.

That said, yes, you shouldn't have to spend every spare moment with her. Some possibilities for her would include therapy (or if she's already in therapy, discussing strategies with her therapist) and working out some strategies to allow you to have alone time--maybe for the first few times, she plans to spend the evening with a close friend or family instead of with you, or maybe she plans something fun and soothing she can do by herself, like watching a favorite movie and having her favorite dinner, so that she can practice being calm and by herself. She might usefully practice some of those cognitive strategies to work through her anxieties--learning to talk herself down from "he'll cheat on me! I'll get sick and die and no one will know! I'll be so anxious that I'll just go crazy" or whatever is worrying her.

It might be really hard for her to be alone until she's gotten through the depression. I know that when I was very depressed and my partner was gone for a week, I was pretty squirrelly by the end. That didn't mean he should have stayed home; it just meant that this was one of the consequences of my illness.
posted by Frowner at 7:50 AM on January 24, 2011 [11 favorites]

Unless we're talking serious stress (parental or sibling death, been the victim of an accident or crime), this is too clingy. Was she always like this? Perhaps whatever is stressing her out is also making her depressed, which can make people insecure and needy.

Also, have you tried just taking what you want instead of asking for it? That is, when she says she's going to come over, say, oh, no, sorry, I already made plans to do something else. If you do this, what happens?
posted by unannihilated at 7:52 AM on January 24, 2011

I've been in pretty much this exact position. I went out with a girl in college who used sobbing and begging in response to a request from me that I not spend every single night, ever, with her. It was an awful relationship that i wish I hadn't stayed in. The resentment it built up in me was absolutely toxic to my happiness - i no longer enjoyed being with my girlfriend, because it was an obligation she placed on me.

Some couples can happily spend every single minute together. But it's entirely and totally reasonable for you to want to have some time to yourself; in fact, it's necessary to be a healthy balanced person. And I say that as someone who tends to be the clingier one in relationships. If she can't tolerate you spending a night by yourself, or out with your friends, without curling up into a ball and sobbing, she's clearly not capable of having an adult relationship at all.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:52 AM on January 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

Can't say I have enough of a read on you from this to know if you're really an asshole or not, but in the abstract it sounds totally reasonable.

You might want to try probing her feelings on why it's so important to spend so much time together. Does she have a lack of friends of her own? Has she been cheated on in other relationships?

If she's taking something like this so very hard, then chances are there's something else bothering her. If you really care, do what you can to get to the bottom of that. She needs to resolve this -- probably even more than you need that small stretch of time to yourself.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:53 AM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

To add quickly--this is all assuming that she can think things through enough to recognize that she is ill (just like if she had a bad flu, or something) and that she has to manage the symptoms.

You could also try simply saying that you need a night out and that you'll talk to her the next day, you love her, good bye. It might be that once she's recognized that she can get through a night on her own, she'll be able to start handling time apart. Again, when I was depressed I learned to tough out certain things (normal things, like going out to a movie) and they gradually got easier.
posted by Frowner at 7:54 AM on January 24, 2011

Yes, she's insecure, but you probably are too in your own way. Insecurity is not the problem. Repeatedly coercing you into serving her needs at the expense of yours is the problem.

You don't need to label her or yourself. You need to spend some time a night by yourself or out with the guys. You shouldn't let her waterworks stop you.
posted by jon1270 at 7:55 AM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

She sounds very needy. Whether she's under stress or not, she needs to learn how to be ok with being by herself.

Maybe instead of asking her permission, you should just do what you want and tell her (nicely of course). Instead of saying "honey, I love you but I need my space," (which she reads as "I hate you I want to leave"), say "hey honey, tonight my friend Bob's having a little guys night, I'll be home by 11, love you."

Asking for space might be a trigger for her to make her feel like you want to break up, but casually saying that you're going to be out for the evening with friends just sounds normal. If you don't make a big deal out of it, she might not take it the wrong way.
posted by katypickle at 7:55 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

You are in no way an asshole for wanting this, it's completely reasonable to not spend 100% of your free time with your girlfriend.

I wish someone had told me this about a decade ago. I was unhappy with the situation, but in love, and settled for just being unhappy. What ian1977 is right, it's emotional blackmail. My ex turned out to have borderline personality disorder, and I had to deal with very similar situations on a daily basis until they eventually destroyed the relationship.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:56 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Let me say this in her defense: a lot of people intepret "I need space" as "I want to break up" or at least "You are getting on my nerves." Maybe it would work better if you just say you will be doing so-and-so (without her) on a Saturday night. Otherwise it seems like you are getting into a weird dynamic where you ask for "space" and she interprets it in the worst possible way, flips out and you relent. Neither of you needs that.
posted by BibiRose at 7:58 AM on January 24, 2011 [16 favorites]

What you want is fine. But I would stop using the term "space" to describe it, as that term is emotionally loaded, and some might think it is a prelude to a breakup.
posted by grouse at 8:01 AM on January 24, 2011 [27 favorites]

A lot of people go through that stage while learning to be in adult relationships. In my observations, the lesson is learned in retrospect; I think it is very rare for someone to wake up one day and go "oh my god, I am being such a baby, I'll stop right now!" It's too hard to stop once it's started.

This may be an opportunity for you to practice setting and maintaining boundaries even in the face of resistance, but it bodes poorly for the relationship.

If you want to try to get through it, you might ask her to please use her big-girl words instead of crying and explain to you what the emotional shitstorm is about. But "curling up on the floor and crying" is for when a family member dies, not when another human being has normal needs that result in mild disappointment.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:05 AM on January 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

I think this depends on what the big stressor is. You said (emphases mine), "I understand she is under alot of stress so I've been cutting her some slack with leaning on me more since we've started dating partially due to the natural progression of a relationship and the stress."

Because, if the stressor is something that tops out on the scale of "life change units", like death of a family member or a significant change in work/study, then... yeah, maybe you need to weigh how much you really care for this person, and whether you want to be the guy who couldn't be strong for your partner in her darkest hour.

But let us assume she's not under the influence of one of those Very Big Stressors, or else you would have shared that in your question.

You mentioned "the natural progression of a relationship." Obviously I'm not your girlfriend and people are different—but I know that when I'm in a healthy, loving relationship, I grow more secure, more confident, more able to handle life's daily pressures... because I have a strong support system behind me. Why is this not the case for your girlfriend? Why is she growing less and less secure as the relationship evolves?

Consider this a preview of a life together, and think about what this means for a future with her. One year together is not an insignificant amount of time. Imagine that you decide to partner for life... when you will in fact have to deal with the Big Things—like death, finances, pregnancy, holidays, families of origin, relocation, serious illness. Is she going to go to pieces every time something big happens? Are you going to be the only one in your relationship that is carrying any emotional burden? That's a very, very hard row to hoe.

I'm not going to speculate on whether your girlfriend is emotionally manipulating you. But all I will say is, if it's like this now, and you take a hard look at the circumstances, does it feel like this behavior on her part will improve? Or do you feel like it will get worse as she continues to see that the waterworks and clinginess result in more attention from you?

I think when you decide that answer, you'll know what to do.
posted by pineapple at 8:05 AM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Being upset isn't blackmail, but she is overreacting. I nth what Frowner said - she's clearly in a really bad place, and it's not a choice for her. That said, your needs are also completely reasonable and you're not being an asshole for wanting time to yourself.

It could be a question of phrasing. Again, as Bibirose said, 'I need space' sounds a lot like 'break up.' Again, next time you want to get out without her, brightly and blandly say you're going to a friend's or doing whatever it is you do, suggest she hang out with a friend, and if she says it's unacceptable tell her you're sorry you'll feel that way, and then tell her when you plan on seeing her again. Then follow through. She'll freak out, but you just need to let her know you'll be back, not to worry, then show up when you say you will.

Unless, that is, you're totally fed up and you're really asking for permission to break up with her. In which case, you're still not an asshole, but make your choice and act decisively.
posted by nerdfish at 8:08 AM on January 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

Wow, I was just like your girlfriend a couple of years ago, and my boyfriend, like you, wanted to have a few nights to himself. Ultimately, we ended up breaking up, in large part due to my clinginess. While the breakup sucked, it did ultimately result in me learning more about myself and my issues.

My extremely clinginess (and associated crying) turns out to be a symptom of undiagnosed depression caused by stress in law school. Once I got help for the depression, I got waaaay better at being alone and finding ways to amuse myself. I also turned to girlfriends I had been neglecting in my quest to spend every hour with my boyfriend.

Recently, after more than a year apart, my ex and I got back together. As opposed to last time, we've been spending more time apart. I've found I actually enjoy having some time to myself (time to go to the gym, or give myself a facial, or just not watch football). I think we have a healthier balance than we did before, and yeah, we do appreciate our time together more.

Basically, my advice to you is to talk to your girlfriend and tell her you're concerned about her. Ask if she'd be open to talking to a professional, with or without her. Hopefully, she'll agree, and maybe you two can work through these issues. You may end up breaking up, however, if she refuses to address the problems in your relationship.
posted by mesha steele at 8:09 AM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

every time I ask for something - she starts crying and generally acting insecure.

A manipulative maneuver that has probably been working for her since she was little.
posted by marimeko at 8:12 AM on January 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

I think part of the problem might be in how you're asking. Asking for "some space" could be a cue in her mind for "I don't want to be emotionally close with you". Instead, try just making some different plans and letting her know in advance that you've made them: "Hey, sweetie, I haven't seen Joe and Fred in a while and so we're going to go see BLOCKBUSTER on Saturday night."

Also, how often during the week do you see her? Are the weekends the primary time you spend together? If so, she may see this as cutting back on the entire relationship. She may also be looking at the weekend with you as a reward for getting through the week.

Has she cut ties to her other (female) friends? If so, encourage her to reestablish those ties.

You might notice I'm asking you a lot of questions here. Talking with her, and asking her questions to help establish what about your request is upsetting her, is going to be the best way to resolve this. Try some open ended questions and don't insert your opinions or defense ("Yes, but I was just...") into it.

None of it matters, she still thinks I'm going to bang another girl or leave her.

This is a red flag for me, but I wonder what the source of her insecurity about this is. Has it happened to her before? Is she experiencing a lot of loss her her life right now and thus thinks she may be losing you as well? Does she see you as the only "constant" in her life? A big part of communication is listening and then reflecting back to her what you heard her say, so she knows you're hearing her.

Good luck with this.
posted by anastasiav at 8:14 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wonder if it's more about the way you're saying you need more space, rather than the fact that you're asking for it? If you're allowing your irritation with her clinginess to come through, and making it sound like you are desperate to get away from her for a bit, I can see how that might be upsetting her. That said, you are 100% not an asshole for wanting some time to yourself, but maybe think about how you're going about approaching your girlfriend about it.
posted by biscotti at 8:15 AM on January 24, 2011

What you want is reasonable. Unfortunately you and your girlfriend seem to have gotten yourselves in a position where she feels that she desperately needs you and your support by being with you and having constant physical reassurance; you feel smothered and stop caring that she needs this; she knows this and gets even more clingy; you withdraw even further. Even though you have not yet physically withdrawn, you seem to feel a bit callous and are annoyed by what she needs and aren't moved by how much she is hurting (I am assuming her reaction of crying in a ball on your bed is an expression of actual pain on her part). Neither of you are going to be satisfied in this situation.

If you want to be in a relationship with her but don't have any time to yourself and just want some time to do things other than be around her, tell her. Assure her you don't want to break up. Having a schedule can help; for example, Friday nights are scheduled as your nights with her but Mondays are reserved for supper with your friend or something. This can work but you'll need to be patient with her and she needs to acknowledge this. With the frame of mind she is in right now, she is likely to feel excluded or abandoned and it is likely going to be very, very hard for you to explain to her that you still want to be with her and having some time apart or you being with other people does not mean you are "choosing" them over her or that you're sick of being around her. If you are sick of being around her--I don't know. What if you lived together? If you can't bear the thought of living with her, you might want to reassess being in the relationship.

She seems to be having a lot of trouble dealing with something and needs support. You're having trouble giving her everything she needs and she (and you) probably would both benefit if she had another source of support. Does she have any close friends? Family? If she were to start building some of those relationships or spending more time with some other people, it might be easier for her to get through things. Even if she just took a class or volunteered she would probably start gaining some other perspective. Obviously you would benefit by having some of the stress taken off you, but you'd also have time to yourself while she was with other people.
posted by Polychrome at 8:16 AM on January 24, 2011

Yeah I agree with not presenting it as you needing "space" or "time off" from the relationship because those can sound more hurtful than I think you really mean them, especially when she is extra sensitive. Just say that you need some time to unwind by yourself and you miss your guy friends and you want to make room for all of that PLUS HER in your life.
Present it as you fitting more in, not as you pushing her out for nothing.
Then instead of saying you want X day off every week, just make your plans and when she brings up that night say "Well, Thursday I am going to see a movie with Jeff (or whatever) so let's either do a late night sleepover after that or do a date on Friday."
The key is to already have plans, stick to them, and then present her with another option of time so it doesn't feel like you are blowing her off.
posted by rmless at 8:17 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I once had this problem in a relationship. I'd ask for time alone and he'd get upset. Once I said to him, "don't you ever just need some time alone with your own brain, or a bit of time with someone who helps you access a different part of yourself?" His response was, "no, everywhere I am would be better if you were with me."

Sweet, right? Except it made me absolutely crazy.

Different people have different expectations of personal time in relationships. I've never managed to sustain a relationship with anyone who didn't have a similar need for space/time alone as me. It's a pretty fundamental compatibility thing.

I don't know how you are phrasing your request, but this would get real old for me real quick. Whatever the root cause for this behavior is doesn't matter all that much - you are already starting to pull away emotionally from her because of it. I'd suggest making it clear that this is becoming a deal breaker and it's important to you that you get some time on your own. You can offer to support her if she needs therapy to manage any emotions she has about giving you space or what have you, but I think it's important that she agrees your request is reasonable and wants to help accommodate it. Giving in is not helping. It only drives you farther away.
posted by amycup at 8:18 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are not an a-hole.

You sound normal.

She is manipulative and seems to have some sort of emotional problem/mental problem.

Try to get her to talk to a therapist of some kind.
posted by freakazoid at 8:22 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd bail -- in my experience people who are "like that" are indeed, "like that" -- which is to say, they're not going to change. Unless there's some overwhelming reason why you think this person is the one you want to be with for the rest of your life, just get out of it now. There's lots of emotionally-healthy women out there that can respect the need for the odd bit of 'alone time' without seeing it as a referendum on the relationship as a whole, and without bursting into tears every time they don't get their own way. Life is too short to deal with such nonsense in a relationship.
posted by modernnomad at 8:36 AM on January 24, 2011

It's likely she's going through a shitload of depression and just doesn't know how to handle it, or how to give and take in relationships. Both are often learned skills.

Tell her that you're concerned that she's leaning too much on you, and although you love her (if you do) and care about her, no one person is equipped to be another's sole emotional support. If this relationship is going to grow and become healthy, she needs to take steps to be healthy herself - seek counseling, get medication, reduce her sources of stress, something. If she works on getting herself mentally healthy she will need your shoulder less and be more comfortable with giving you space.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:39 AM on January 24, 2011 [6 favorites]

Your desire to have some more space away from your relationship is totally reasonable.

That said, I have some experience on the other end of the "i need space" conversation. During my first adult relationship, I found myself working and living with my boyfriend within a month of getting together. Although we spent loads of time together, I felt insecure when he would say that he wanted more space because he would couch it in unkind terms. At this point, I don't remember any direct quotes, but the general tone was "I'm sick of hanging out with you all the time, and I need more space because I'm tired of you." This sucks to hear. If he'd just said, "I'm gonna go on a hike by myself, or Bob invited me to do X-thing-that-you-would-never-want-to do" and then just went and did those things, it would have been less confrontational and easier to handle. Your girlfriend seems to have some insecurities that should definitely be addressed, but you don't really describe how you bring up your need for space. Maybe the issue that causes the crying isn't as much the fact that you want to spend time alone but more that she feels you're confronting her about it?
posted by sk932 at 8:47 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ask yourself if she broke up with you would you be relieved or disappointed? If the answer is relieved, it is possible you are staying just to avoid or postpone the consequences of leaving. Life is short, don't let guilt rule you.
posted by InkaLomax at 8:48 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are several reasons why she may be acting like this:
(1) The stressors in her life may be pushing her into depression (or worsening existing depression);
(2) She could be emotionally immature;
(3) She could be manipulative, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Regardless of the reasons, it's reasonable for you to want some time each week to pursue your own interests/activities, and it's not fair to be accused of cheating/wanting to dump her just because you want that. And regardless of the reasons motivating her behavior, the kindest, non-asshole way to respond is to establish reasonable boundaries:

She does not get to own your free time 100%;
Bawling and balling up are not acceptable relationship communication tools;
If she is having such a hard time coping with situational stressors and/or is dealing with depression/anxiety, she needs to seek outside help with that.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 8:52 AM on January 24, 2011

To answer your question - you are not an asshole. She as - people have pointed out - may be doing this because she never learned a better way to communicate. If she's an adult, it's unacceptable but if there is a chance for her to change - I have to say it won't happen until her behavior stops "working". Be strong.

That's a dealbreaker, ladies

Both men and women are capable of emotional blackmail, and for that matter crying.
posted by marimeko at 9:14 AM on January 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

She needs to get some help. Ultimately, this probably isn't about you or anything you've done -- she's just using her relationship with you to help her cope with her own anxiety/depression/some other issue that's making things difficult for her. The clinginess is a symptom of some other, larger problem, and she has got to get her shit together and work through it.

Be as supportive as you can be, but tell her that if she can't work through these issues on her own, she has to get help from a professional. This isn't healthy adult behavior. Understandable, maybe, but not sustainable.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:30 AM on January 24, 2011

Putting aside the specifics, nobody is an asshole for having their own particular needs. Period.

A relationship is about being with someone who cares about your needs and who is willing to work together with you to have both your needs met. If those needs involve someone wearing a leather pig suit and another person who needs to dress as a farmer... then you'd just best hope they want to raise pretend hogs and not pretend wheat. Otherwise it's going to be more difficult to negotiate.

You're in a situation where you aren't getting what you want and you're unable to get it. Is that your inability to state it clearly? Her inability to reconcile it with her insecurities? Good advice is above and I'm sure more will follow.

But you'll make great strides if you first accept that having your own personal needs and wanting to have them met doesn't make you a bad person. If you determine that it's impossible to meet them while in an honest relationship with someone yet keep stringing them along then you're a bad person.
posted by phearlez at 9:41 AM on January 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

It could all be in the presentation. I once dated a guy who told me, ultimatum-style, that he would only hang out with me one day per weekend, and that one weekend every month he was going to go away on some manly pursuit trip. We only saw each other maybe once during the week otherwise, so this weekend ultimatum thing really pissed me off, because he acted as if spending time with me was cramping his man style or something.

It's okay to carve out time for yourself, but make sure you're not presenting it like a rigid schedule that you'll do your best to schedule her into when it's convenient. Nothing in your question indicates that you're doing this at all, but I just thought I'd share my perspective from the other side. Good luck.
posted by just_ducky at 10:04 AM on January 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

every time I ask for something - she starts crying and generally acting insecure.

That's not an appropriate response to you assertively saying you'd like some time to yourself, or to spend with buddies.

People have given you some great advice so far, and I'm going to nth those who have said that using the words "I need some space" mean "I want to break up" for a lot of people. Rephrasing it as just needing some time to chill out or hang out with friends would be better.

Your GF may be depressed or have other problems that would require therapy. It seems like her overreactions are symptoms of a larger issue.

Also, what if you told her you're being pushed away by her behavior? Do you think that would make her try to cope better with her fears?

It's really not fair in a relationship to hold your partner hostage, even if it stems from something like depression. Everyone needs alone time and to deny that to someone is borderline abusive. I'm not saying your GF is doing this on purpose or is a bad person, but regardless of the reason, the effects on you are unhealthy and if you guys can't work it out no one would blame you for leaving.
posted by xenophile at 10:17 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think that one of the following is true:

* She needs professional help. She is suffering from anxiety and/or depression, and a doctor can do a lot to help her with that. If this is the case, then you should act just as you would if she had a debilitating physical illness that she was not getting help for. Encourage her strongly to see a doctor. Depression and anxiety are very common, nothing to be ashamed of, and treatable.

* She is doing this on purpose to control you. Very unlikely in my opinion. If she is being as annoying as you claim, then she would have learned by now that this does not work to control people and only antagonizes them. People are so quick to assume that someone is being manipulative whenever someone gets upset that I am very hesistant to jump to that conclusion.

* You don't really understand what she is so upset about. Are you blowing her off when you say you need time to yourself or are you putting it nicely and respectfully? From what you are saying, she is crying for no real reason. When Person A says that Person B is upset for no real reason, what that usually means is that Person A has no idea why Person B is upset. Ask her why she is so upset and really listen to her reason. It is possible that this is just something you and she need to clear up and then she won't be so upset all the time.
posted by giggleknickers at 10:18 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

This depends on what you guys do for a living or what your daily lives are like, but I have to say that spending your weekends together is not really "clingy" in my book for a relationship of a year.

I would possibly cry, and definitely be upset, if my serious S.O. of more than a year told me he couldn't take the time to see me two days out of the week.

When my last boyfriend started making noises about how we were seeing too much of each other, and "seeing two much of each other" was hanging out on both days of most weekends, that was a pretty big warning sign that things were not going well in my relationship. Which might contribute to why your girlfriend seems so insecure. She probably understands that this means you're not really interested in her.

If you really can't find a couple of days in your week to spend with her, she's probably right.
posted by Sara C. at 11:10 AM on January 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

When I started feeling insecure, needy and that I wasn't getting enough attention from my boyfriend, I figured out it was because I needed more affection from him. Yeah we were having plenty of sex, but I wasn't getting much in the way of hugs, kisses and holding hands otherwise. Last week I asked him to be more affectionate with me, and since then things have noticeably improved in terms of levels of affection and my sense of well-being in this relationship.

Perhaps reflect on whether you've been a good boyfriend in trying to make her feel special and adored, which gives a sense of security. Talk to her and see if you've been giving her any reason to feel like she's being neglected, aside from your request for a night apart. Here's a quiz i found in Scientific American Mind last month for identifying attachment styles in relationships.

Your need for a night alone would also suggest to me that you're somewhat introverted, and it would do you well to give her some information on how introverts work, then she will better understand "it's how your brain works" instead of "you're trying to avoid her". Here's a decent article to start.
posted by lizbunny at 11:25 AM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

"is asking for space cause for her curling up in a ball on the floor and crying?"

posted by CunningLinguist at 11:27 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ok, first things first, you're not an asshole. The space you want is not only reasonable, but would probably turn out to be something your girlfriends needed, too, without realizing it. It's just a matter of negotiating it in a way that doesn't feel threatening or like a rejection to her. Now, you've gotten a lot of feedback calling her behavior "emotional blackmail" and "manipulative," and sure, in a way, it's both. There's no point in being vindictive about it, though, as it's certainly not intentional, and is just as unpleasant for you as it is for her. What's more, even though it might feel like she's "winning" because you don't get the space your asking for, I'm sure it doesn't feel that way for her, as she can no doubt sense your growing ambivalence. So step 1 is to try and get out of the zero-sum mindset wherein you're trying to take back something -- i.e. some of your time -- from her, and instead, keep in mind that you're trying to work cooperatively with her for a more mutually enjoyable relationship.

Practically speaking, this means don't open the conversation saying "I need space" or "I should be allowed to do x, y and z." Instead, tell her that you want her know that there's nothing she needs to be worried or upset about you wanting some weekend time by yourself or with the guys. Tell her that your feelings for her haven't changed one bit, that you're as into her as ever, and that this isn't about you not being happy having her as a girlfriend. Tell her you this is in no way a precursor to breaking up in your mind. And tell her -- and this is the most important part -- that you want to talk with her about it as long as it takes for her to feel ok with things.

It will be easier for her to accept having less of your time in the immediate future if she feels safe in the knowledge she has all of your time and attention at this moment.
posted by patnasty at 11:39 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You shouldn't have to ask for something in a certain specific way in order for your partner to behave like a considerate, rational adult.

Her mental state sounds so poor that she seems to need treatment from a professional.

Does she even recognize that her behavior is inappropriate? If she does not, or insists that it's reasonable, I don't see it changing any time soon.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:14 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

“I once had this problem in a relationship. I'd ask for time alone and he'd get upset. Once I said to him, "don't you ever just need some time alone with your own brain, or a bit of time with someone who helps you access a different part of yourself?" His response was, "no, everywhere I am would be better if you were with me." -amycup

“Both men and women are capable of emotional blackmail, and for that matter crying.” –marimeko

Yeah, I’ve been in almost the exact same situation described by the OP (déjà vu) complete with the crying, except I’m a gal and he was a guy.

He was a very insecure person in general, had just moved, had few friends, and was probably depressed but couldn’t afford or wasn’t motivated enough to go see a shrink. He had real trouble being straightforward and facing up to problems in the relationship and sort of crept into my apartment and life more and more over time, brining his stuff over, and all, until I had the “space” talk. The result was his crying. The first time it happened, I was so SHOCKED I had made a grown man cry that I felt horrible, and I basically said something like, “whatever you want, just stop crying.” Big mistake. He actually reminded me of that later on, when the same conversation came up again, and first started crying again, then got angry. He was like, “It used to bother you when I got upset, and now you’re so cold! You only care about yourself!” Or something. He also did eventually try to give me more space, but he was obviously shaken about it and sort of weirdly passive-aggressive, texting me things like, “Sigh, I miss you so much.” Or “I hope you’re having fun.”

Yeah, that was sort of the last straw of drama for me. I felt bad for him as a person, but I couldn’t be responsible for solving his problems, nor could any girlfriend. And as time went on, it became apparent that we were a lot less compatible than I thought at first. I broke up with him after three months, and it was an ugly breakup.

There is something about a person who wants you and your attention without regard for your comfort or reciprocated interest that is icky and scary. Even though it comes from a place of “I need her/him! And s/he can afford to give me what I want, so why not?!” it’s disrespectful and will ultimately drag you down with them until neither of you is functional. It’s also childish and puts you in the “caretaker/responsible” role. Don’t buy it. If you were really the selfish one, and she was so selfless, she wouldn’t be guilt-tripping you and she would care more if she was making you unhappy. She’s become attached to you as an object of comfort/security instead of a person she needs to impress.

My advice is seriously nip this in the bud now. Have a talk and tell her point blank you need to break up if she doesn’t give you more space. Expect the waterworks and be stoic throughout. If she reverts back to her old behavior or can’t seem to handle the idea that you’re not completely one with her, follow through and break up.
posted by Nixy at 1:19 PM on January 24, 2011 [11 favorites]

You may be being a bit of an asshole and feeding her insecurity somehow so that you are really the wrong person for her and she's too stressed to deal with major changes right now. The question you would have to ask yourself is not who is acting "right" and who is "wrong," but whether or not you're capable of being kind to her.

You're being pretty contemptuous of her in your post and it's pretty obvious you're annoyed with her.

We don't know enough about her to gauge where she's needy and insecure or to guess what your particular relationship chemistry is like.

Would it be fair to say that you're not really into her and you've probably given her mixed signals (saying you love her and then appearing to dislike spending time with her)?

My gut kind of says that this isn't all about you needing space and her being clingy---she's not blackmailing you to get you to stay, rather, she's having emotional problems. It sounds really sad, honestly, and unfortunate that you aren't feeling at all compassionate or concerned about how poorly she's coping insofar as it being a drag on your life.

Whether or not you want to be a friend to her and suggest she see a counselor to learn to manage stress, or whether you want to be someone who isn't a friend and decide to treat her without compassion is up to you. She may be someone you're dating, but she deserves to also be treated kindly as you should anyone you are friends with, even as you're breaking it off with her. I don't think you're a good match for her, but you don't have to act like an asshole. Just be firm, break it off, and don't make her feel worse than she does by making her feel like she's someone who deserves to be treated meanly.
posted by anniecat at 1:54 PM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Do you actually like being in a relationship with her? Because it doesn't sound like you do. Perhaps when you say 'I need more space' she is hearing 'I want to break up with you' because you actually do want to break up with her.

Her reactions seem inappropriate as to scale, but I think it's at least as likely that she is not dealing with her emotions well as that she is engaging in "emotional blackmail." People with tremendous fears of abandonment, of every gender, often break down into crying balls of terror when they feel like a relationship is ending. This is not an appropriate or a healthy reaction, but it's an honest reaction.

It sounds like you guys should break up, because neither of you seems to be getting what you want out of this relationship.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:52 PM on January 24, 2011

Does it really matter who's wrong and who's right? This relationship isn't working for either of you, so you should end it.

(FWIW, it's probably somewhere in the middle... she's clingy AND you're an a-hole.)
posted by J. Wilson at 5:31 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wait a minute - it's not clear to me how much you guys see each other TOTAL - like, do you live together24/7 and you want A night off, or do you ONLY see her on the weekends and want one of THOSE nights off?

That makes a huge difference.

(If I missed something someone please correct me.)
posted by tristeza at 5:41 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is she needy or is it me?

Could be neither.

Maybe I am an a-hole but .... Remember, all I've asked for is 1 night to myself a weekend.

No, you are not. Nor a jerk or cold or distant or any of those things for that matter.
You need what you need, that's all.
posted by xm at 9:13 PM on January 24, 2011

Run - run now.
posted by Bron-Y-Aur at 9:48 PM on January 24, 2011

I agree that you need space, but how you approach it makes a huge difference. If you blow off what she thought were plans at the last minute, that sucks. If I think I am spending the weekend with a boyfriend and at 7pm on Saturday he's all "ok I'm gonna go do something else now" I'd be annoyed. What, am I boring him? Thanks a lot. Especially if I knew this was the only time we'd be seeing each other during the week and was looking forward to it. I understand her need to be able to count on times that she will spend with you. I like having plans and knowing what's going to happen, but I am adaptable to changes in the plan so long as they are made in a timely fashion. If you want to do something on a weekend night, do you tell her in advance and offer her a different time? (i.e. call her on Tuesday: "I made plans with Bob for Saturday night, so let's maybe have date night on Thursday instead this week?") BREAKING your plans is a different story. This was what really got to me about my ex- he would spring plan changes on me at the very last minute, even though he knew about them in advance AND we had also already made plans. I found it disrespectful and just really irritating. That's different than me not wanting him to have any time to himself (which I did want.) I just wished he could have told me far enough in advance that I could make plans of my own to do something else. I think the reason he did that was just because he was non-confrontational and avoiding making me upset (by breaking plans) but in fact by waiting until the last possible minute he made the situation worse than it would have been. We both had our problems, but appropriate communication was his big one.

It also kinda bugs me that people are saying crying is manipulative. Ok, sure, maybe some people use it that way. I never have. When I'm upset, sometimes I cry. It's a physical response that happens sometimes. If my boyfriend got annoyed at me for it, that would make it worse. When I think back on various times I've been curled into a ball crying, it's usually been due to frustration and anger over a total communication breakdown, and a buildup of many different things, not just the one seemingly minor issue. Which is generally both people's fault and a result of simply being immature/ inexperienced in a relationship.

So honestly, this one sounds like more of a pain in the ass than either one of you needs. It kind of seems like you guys have gone past the point of no return as far as poor communication goes. But the points I made above are applicable in future relationships. Overall it sounds like she is insecure, but you're probably bad at communicating your needs to her in a reassuring way. This is what, in my experience, leads to clinginess. In any case, I think it takes a couple relationships with people behaving badly in order to figure out the right way to do stuff. Your Ask sounds a lot like me and my boyfriends when I was, say, 18-21. We were like that because we were young, immature and inexperienced, not because we were bad people. I'm not like that anymore and I'm sure they aren't either, because we all grew up a lot. But you could probably just chalk up this relationship to being part of that learning curve and move on. (But, you know, actually learn from it.)
posted by GastrocNemesis at 12:08 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

« Older How do you handle a poor recommendation from a...   |   How do I get to Torii Station from Naha city? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.