Addressing the need for me-time in a LDR
May 18, 2015 12:43 PM   Subscribe

My GF and I are currently long distance, though only for a short while longer. We're planning for me to visit her at the end of the month for four days. Due to manic work commitments and sickness, I was looking forward to having this (long) weekend to myself, but my GF has said that my not coming to visit has made her feel "not nurtured." I don't know how to address this in an adult fashion; advice is welcome (snowflakes abound…)

We last saw each other on the first weekend of the month, which was her birthday weekend. I went down to visit her (~4 hours away) and stayed for the long weekend. It was wonderful, but on the day I was coming home I started coming down with flu, which made the journey home a lot less fun. We didn't get to speak that much (we Skype most nights) that week because I was in bed and nursing a fever and occasional delirium (I spent one night convinced that I was a lionfish wearing a man suit. I am not kidding).

The week after that she had to go away for work at very short notice. We coped using Skype (she had an 8-hour time difference from me so it made it quite easy to catch up in my afternoon / her morning).

My GF is currently looking to buy a place near the city where I live, as she's moving up in September to go to grad school. She'd found a place advertised on the web whilst she was away and decided to come and look at it this Friday just gone, and then to stay with me on the Friday night. In the meantime I spent my Sunday checking out the area where the house was, and a bunch of others, to make sure that it was worth her time and money to come up.

Unfortunately, I then got sent away for work and wasn't able to be at home at the weekend, so she didn't stay over (having got the train up and home on the same day). The next time we're planning to see each other is next week. We're going to a concert together and then spending the weekend at her place, or maybe going out to the coast or something.

Whilst all this has been going on, things have gone to shit for me at work. One of my colleagues, a senior member of staff, went AWOL last week, and it turns out that he's had a relapse into alcoholism and has now become more than somewhat unreliable. As the next most senior person, and the only one with the requisite skillset to finish his work, I've been drafted in to tie up what he's left dangling. The upshot is that in the last week I've had half a day off (yesterday) and am working until 9pm most nights. This will continue for the rest of this week, until Friday when the project deadline falls.

With sickness and travel at the start of the month I've had no time to devote to my passion projects — short films that I'm writing, scoring and directing. These are all things that have other people attached to them and the longer I delay the harder it's going to be to pull everything together.

I'm in introvert, and to recharge I sometimes need a chunk of alone-time. I was looking forward to having this (long) weekend to myself to recharge my batteries, do a bunch of writing and pre-production work and generally just stop rushing around.

Today my GF texted me to ask if we'd see each other this weekend. I told her that no, the plan was for me to spend *next* weekend. She replied "... but it's a holiday weekend." I wasn't able to reply there and then because of work, but when I did I told her that:
  1. I couldn't afford to come down two weekends in a row
  2. I really needed the upcoming weekend to recharge
  3. I had plans to do writing, etc. (of which she's very supportive) at the weekend
She replied and told me that she recognised that I was dealing with a lot of stuff, but that she's not feeling very nurtured right now, that love should be nurturing, that she feels like she never gets priority in my life and she needs a partner, not someone with whom she has a relationship by text.

I don't really know how to reply to all that. I'm feeling very much on the ragged edge because I'm so tired from work. The light at the end of the tunnel is that the project has to be done by Friday — great, I can stop after that. But I can't face driving for four hours or taking the train for 3 hours after that. I need to stop.

I feel like she's being a bit unfair about priority. Yes, we're far apart and don't see each other as often as we'd like, but I work really hard to make time to Skype with her, even when as I'm madly busy as I am now. I took the time to go and research all the areas that she was looking at living (making detailed notes) and drove round them all to make sure they were somewhere she'd be happy.

I love my GF very much and I understand that she wants to spend more time with me. I don't feel like I have the energy to spend with *anyone* right now, but I don't know whether I should stick to my guns on that or travel down to see her at the weekend, which I know would take a lot more out of me.

Things haven't always been smooth between us — she's been with me through two major depressive episodes and one minor psychotic break, and I've seen her through a major depressive episode and been with her when she was suicidal and couldn't trust herself not to harm herself. But we've made it through, with love.

I know that often the advice here on the green is "put on your own oxygen mask…" but in this case would that be an okay thing to do, or am I being super selfish by wanting to take the time off for myself? How can I address this in an adult fashion without seeming like I don't love her or that I'm avoiding her?
posted by six sided sock to Human Relations (42 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think your girlfriend is being a bit unfair here -- after all, you're planning to make her a priority NEXT weekend, just not THIS weekend, right? Maybe point out that she is certainly a priority to you, but not your only priority -- keeping a job so you don't become unemployed and looking after your own mental health are also really important (and it's in her best interest that you do so).

In any case, is a possible compromise that SHE travels to see you for at least part of this weekend -- maybe say something like, "You know, I am so burnt out right now and need some alone time, but if you want to come up for Monday, we can do some low key time." I think one of the keys to a successful relationship that lasts long term is being able to do some of your recharging/relaxing/downtime TOGETHER, and not always have to be "on" when you're with each other. (Obviously, you still need some ALONE alone time, but I've found some of my alone time can be channeled into time-with-just-my-partner because I can be relaxed and comfortable with him. Which is good since we live in a tiny apartment together!)
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:53 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


How can I address this in an adult fashion without seeming like I don't love her or that I'm avoiding her?

Just like this person:

I told her that:
I couldn't afford to come down two weekends in a row
I really needed the upcoming weekend to recharge
I had plans to do writing, etc. (of which she's very supportive) at the weekend.


I wonder to what extent she or both of you are pegging each other's mental health to the other person and their presence.
posted by PMdixon at 12:54 PM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Try this: "I agree that it's a bummer that I can't come. I'm sorry you feel less than nurtured and I hope that this is a passing emotion that you are relaying to me in the interest of full disclosure and not a judgment on me. I feel pretty overwhelmed and have always found that your support, even from afar, can help me through that. Please let me know what I can do for you from afar that will help you feel nurtured."
posted by janey47 at 1:01 PM on May 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


It sounds like you guys had a pretty good rhythm that was making you both feel sufficiently connected and prioritized, but the past month has been, well, shit. I can entirely see how your girlfriend might be feeling less nurtured--the problem is she's blaming it on you and your priorities, when the real thing to blame is just Life Bein' Life.

I think there are multiple adult ways to address the situation, but the most effective one in my opinion would be by first addressing the validity of her feelings, and then asserting your boundaries:

"GF, I know this month has been crazy and we have definitely not been able to stay connected in the way that I know we both prefer and are used to. I'm feeling the lack of it, too. However, I really need this weekend to recharge and take care of some things that have fallen through the cracks. This is a hard decision for me to make, because I love being with you, but I firmly believe that getting this weekend to myself will make me a better, more present partner with you NEXT weekend, when we absolutely will see each other. I understand that it's upsetting, but I hope you can accept my needing this time. And remember, in September, we get to stop doing this juggling act!"
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:01 PM on May 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


Nurturing is a two-way street. It sounds like you've done a ton for her the last few weeks with house-hunting and travel for her birthday. What's she contributing to the relationship? Because it certainly isn't a keen and sympathetic understanding of your needs and stresses.
posted by Andrhia at 1:02 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Upon reading that a coworker made it so that you couldn't visit her I found myself sympathizing with your GF. Your coworker owes YOU but you still owe your GF. So discharge the debt and take care of her. I promise you that it will all work out in the long run.
posted by kalessin at 1:02 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


is it possible to make some kind of compromise? would it be better if she came to you instead of you to her? since it's a long weekend, what if she just comes for sunday night? i understand sometimes being in a mental rut and just really wanting to see your SO, but she should be understanding about your needs as well. there seems to be room for a reasonable compromise.
posted by monologish at 1:15 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm feeling very much on the ragged edge because I'm so tired from work. The light at the end of the tunnel is that the project has to be done by Friday — great, I can stop after that. But I can't face driving for four hours or taking the train for 3 hours after that. I need to stop.

Did you tell her this, or did you just tell her you were "tired" and "had plans to do writing"? Because they're not the same thing. I can see how just dryly being told you were tired and had other plans would make me feel unprioritized, for sure. Because she can't see your face, you're going to have to be a little more emotionally forthcoming and descriptive in words than maybe you're used to being. Write back and tell her the whole story, and that you're sorry and that you miss her, and how much this week has sucked and how much you're looking forward to seeing her. Then ask how her day is going.
posted by bleep at 1:17 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can see this from both sides.

From her side: because long distance can be really hard. Because it sucks when you would like to keep in touch regularly but that plan gets disrupted by other things getting in the way. Because I've also sometimes felt like I wasn't a priority in my partner's life.

From your side: because travelling that kind of distance isn't a small thing. Because you saw her at the start of the month and you'll see her again at that end of the month. Because these things happen and it sounds like you've had a stressful time.

I think that you have to be firm in your decision not to visit her this weekend - don't think out loud about maybe changing your mind! - but I think it would be nice for you to make a couple of gestures to remind her that you care. eg. If she likes flowers, you could get a bunch sent to her house during the week. And try to make sure that you at least Skype with her over the weekend!
posted by kinddieserzeit at 1:18 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Listen to what you need - you said it above, that you need to stop, you need alone-time, you need to recharge. I like the ideas about asking what you can do from afar to make her feel nurtured. I would definitely skype with her about this, because as folks have noted above, you're exhausted-ness comes through here in a way that it might not over text or in a short email.
posted by ldthomps at 1:18 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tricky...I think your girlfriend is being unfair, since you're going down the following weekend. But, it will be important that she feels heard. Some thoughts....

1) Can she come up for the weekend? Or better come up on Sunday, so that you have Saturday to breathe? or at least can you stay home Saturday, and go down Sun/Mon? can you take Tuesday off/sick to supplement your me-time? (Which I totally would do in a heartbeat if I needed to) If you do go down, can she let have some time to yourself, and plenty of sleep, and have a do-nothing weekend?

2) I don't know what the concept of 'nurturing' entails, does she have specific actions that would make her feel nurtured? If you don't go down, can you make a special gesture, send flowers or something (sorry, this type of thing isn't my strong suit but I'm sure askme has suggestions...for other gifts Amazon same or next-day delivers, too).

Suggestions aside, I personally would take my weekend off, damn it, and deal with the pieces later. I am exactly like you in needing breathing time, and I would stick with the weekend off because I would be MISERABLE company if forced to travel, or even to talk to ANYONE, and the weekend would suck for both of us. But I guess that will depend on how your particular relationship works and on your girlfriend...


And that may be your answer: will you be miserable and resentful and have a bad weekend together if you do travel, or would you be able to pull it together and have a fun time even if you did it her way or compromised? No judgement, because I would hate to be with me when I needed that break and didn't get it. My marriage works because my husband knows when to disappear and let me be.
posted by lemonade at 1:22 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


but in this case would that be an okay thing to do, or am I being super selfish by wanting to take the time off for myself?

Totally, totally, totally okay. I was in an LDR with a fellow about 3 hours and an international border from me. We saw each other once or on rare occasions twice a month, and while I always looked forward to our visits a few times a year I would just feel too drained to travel or entertain. I was sad and guilty about it, and he would be sad about it, but we both understood that we were in this for the long haul and it was important to look after our own respective mental healths. We live together now, very happily, and I think setting those expectations in the relationship beforehand has helped our life in the same apartment, too.

Can you arrange to do something special together online this weekend? My partner and I would play co-op games together, or stream a movie and watch it together. Make a virtual date, but take the rest of the weekend to recuperate and recharge. It's okay.
posted by jess at 1:25 PM on May 18, 2015


As someone that survived an LDR for almost 6 years with both partners being half a world away from each other & seeing each other only rarely. I moved to where he lived & we have been married 5 years now.

It is really hard in an LDR to keep the connection going and finding small ways to do that will help a lot to relieve some of her fears. She is planning on moving her whole life, how will you cope with her around 24/7 if you can't handle the odd stressful weekend? Is that something you may want to think about before she moves. She is moving, I suspect she may have chosen the grad school she did to be with you (I am not sure of relationship length etc from your question so I am assuming as it seems very coincidental otherwise), it is only fair you help to, helping someone look for a place is not the same emotional investment as actually upping your life and moving, if my partner then spend the weekend after I was working on a plan to be closer to them, basically not wanting anything to do with me I'd be feeling like I needed nurturing too because I'd be starting to question why I was moving if he didn't' want me around.

I am not saying it's rational, I'm saying there is more to this than just being needy. I suspect you will find her need for attention relates to her fears. Find a compromise, because if you are thinking long term relationship you need to find a way to recharge while she is around. That would be something you could work on together. "Hey babe you know I am introverted & need to recharge can we find a way I can do that that will still make you feel nurtured?" Then work to find something that helps. My husband and I parallel work, we used to do the same thing only over skype. Camera on we could chat with each other on & off while doing our own thing on the computer, now we do it on computers next to each other in the same room.
posted by wwax at 1:28 PM on May 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


As a fellow introvert, I totally get it - you need that time. Thinking about not getting that time to yourself probably makes your skin crawl. Plus, if she's there and looking for nurturing (whatever that is) when you so desperately want to be alone, you're probably going to deeply resent it. It's bad mojo - you're actually doing her a favor by taking this time to yourself, but if your GF doesn't get that, it's pretty normal for her to feel disappointed.

But, if she's planning to stay in a relationship with an introvert, this is something she's going to get intimately familiar with over time. It's best to acknowledge her feelings with compassion and empathy, but stick with your boundaries.

In your shoes, I would go with the script above. But because I also kind of feel for your girlfriend (I'm introverted AND clingy - ask me how!) I'd suggest that you make some concrete plans with her to do something special the weekend after - something that maybe both of you really enjoy, that requires closeness and sharing and, I don't know, maybe flowers and chocolate and cuddling.
posted by kythuen at 1:33 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I agree with the idea that you should attempt to make sure that you're voicing your needs in a way that can be heard. I have to say that a good partner will hear you saying "I am so stressed from work and I need the weekend alone to recharge" and won't fuss about it. Long distance is hard and requires flexibility and support.

But to be honest with you I actually think that it's too soon for you to be in a romantic relationship like the one you describe (there's a lot of intensity going on in this relationship what with the breakdowns and the distance and a lot of life changes) based on your history.
posted by sockermom at 1:35 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's OK for her to be disappointed and to feel like she's not getting the attention she'd like. But, it's not OK for her to foist that on you when it's really been a case of this month being really hectic and full of unexpected challenges for both of you (though, with your colleague's relapse, you win). Maybe she said what she did in haste and in the full bloom of being sad, disappointed, and missing you. I'd chat with her about it again and be very detailed about how hard this month has been for you, acknowledge the fact that you'd both like to see more of each other, and then tell her that you are nearing turning into a liquefied state if you don't have some rest and alone time to regroup. You'll be a hot mess next weekend if you don't take this weekend off. Not to mention, the possibility of getting sick again due to being so run down.

If she doesn't hear you and doubles down on making her own feelings of not being nurtured trump all else, then I'm afraid you have bigger fish to fry than a bad schedule and missing one another.
posted by quince at 1:39 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Let me be more emphatic, on rereading:

She replied and told me that she recognised that I was dealing with a lot of stuff, but that she's not feeling very nurtured right now, that love should be nurturing, that she feels like she never gets priority in my life and she needs a partner, not someone with whom she has a relationship by text.

Granted you're the one writing the post, but given what you've said about your lifting in the relationship, to the extent these are even fairly close paraphrases, this is manipulative as anything. That is not adult in the least. You said what you needed, which sounds pretty reasonable. She told you she felt like you didn't love her. That's escalation. I don't recommend re-escalating, but I hope you choose to maintain the boundary.

And this:

Things haven't always been smooth between us — she's been with me through two major depressive episodes and one minor psychotic break, and I've seen her through a major depressive episode and been with her when she was suicidal and couldn't trust herself not to harm herself. But we've made it through, with love.

sounds like you see a/the foundation of the relationship as shared trauma. To the extent that is true, what happens if/when one of you gains distance from that trauma?
posted by PMdixon at 1:41 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is there some particular reason she can't put the effort in to come see you instead? If she feels that strongly about it, then I think maybe she should be putting some of the effort in instead of expecting you to travel for 7 hours while she sits at home. It sounds like you have a lot going on, what with work and other projects, so maybe it's her turn to step up and be nurturing. Or, just wait a week and she can be nurtured. That's not really a huge amount of time. Is she not aware of how much stuff is going on for you right now? I think you should be clear with her about that - it might be that she just doesn't get how busy your life is.

Talk with her about what you need, making it clear that it's a need, not just a passing whim. It does sound like you need a rest and some down time, just for the sake of your health. If she can't handle the fact that life gets in the way sometimes, then that's on her. To be completely fair, you girlfriend might need to feel nurtured. That's the problem with relying on other people for emotional support - sometimes they're not in a position to give it, at which point you have to suck it up or find someone else. If you spend lots of time travelling and taking care of her, who is going to take care of you? If you don't get what you need, you're not going to be in a position to help anyone, including yourself.

It's always OK to put your own oxygen mask on first. If she's making you feel like you're being selfish for taking care of your own needs, then that's a red flag.
posted by Solomon at 1:51 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can you talk with her again and reassure her concerns while explaining why one freaking weekend in the scheme of things is not a judgement about her or the relationship, you're completely overtaxed and overbooked?

I really can't see this from your GF's side, unless you did an extra shitty job explaining what 9am to 9pm days feel like.
posted by jbenben at 2:58 PM on May 18, 2015


Hey, if she's thinking of buying a place near you, then she can definitely come to you for once.
posted by northtwilight at 4:14 PM on May 18, 2015


That's tough. I've been your girlfriend in my current relationship (we were LDR for quite some time on different continents) . I think I might have even *made* the holiday weekend comment-- yikes. I used to get angry for similar reasons-- both my partner and I have demanding jobs but we handle work stress very differently, and he often ended up decommitting . At a certain moment, it got to feel our relationship was unequal since I treated him as a priority and he treated me like an option.

I would see if you could make the energy to have her there for the long weekend. "Honey, I love you, but I can't drive up two weekends in a row without killing myself. why don't you come down-- I can't promise you lots of excitement, but we can snuggle through the weekend and cook breakfast together." I would think if you can manage that this would be a reasonable compromise.

I can't judge whether she's being reasonable or not in feeling a lack of nurture. But what I can say is that if you love her and trust her, then you should listen if she says so. (This is not the same as giving her what she wants in the end, but I find these kinds of conflicts are much easier to resolve if everyone starts from the assumption that the other person is reasonable in their needs.)
posted by frumiousb at 4:31 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Granted you're the one writing the post, but given what you've said about your lifting in the relationship, to the extent these are even fairly close paraphrases, this is manipulative as anything.

For what it's worth, as someone who would probably be the kind of partner who drives around looking at houses for the other but would also take the trip if work required, I don't agree with this. Just because you see the house hunting as a big deal doesn't mean she does, and neither is wrong. This sounds more like mismatched expectations about what counts as support and nurturing, and rather than running yourself ragged trying to do the things you see that way then adding what she asks for, I think your next Skype should include a frank discussion about what she needs - and what you're doing that she doesn't need.
posted by solotoro at 5:04 PM on May 18, 2015


(in case I wasn't clear, I mean my suggestion as a complement to solomon 's, not a replacement. Your needs are important too!
posted by solotoro at 5:09 PM on May 18, 2015


From what I recall of my days in an LDR, it would have been a huuuuuge deal if I wasted a three day weekend and an extra(!) day with my SO because I was tired. I saw my ex when I had pneumonia, for the record, and was too exhausted to walk very far to a bus stop and I still did it. Guess who gave me it, though? So I think you are going to have to suck it up and see her, tired or no. This is a huge deal in LDRland.

"I would see if you could make the energy to have her there for the long weekend. "Honey, I love you, but I can't drive up two weekends in a row without killing myself. why don't you come down-- I can't promise you lots of excitement, but we can snuggle through the weekend and cook breakfast together."

I would do this. You sound so ragged I wouldn't trust your safe driving, and if you're about to keel over, she needs to make the effort if she wants to see you and realize that it'll be a snuggle with TV weekend. But I would not deny her entirely. She's already quite unhappy and un-nurtured--so you need to do something. That shit backs up in an LDR.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:01 PM on May 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


It sounds to me like you've set your boundaries and stated your reasons for them clearly, which is in fact a very adult way to participate in a relationship. She's feeling a bit hurt and/or lonely so she's testing your boundaries to see if she can get her needs met, but the truth is if you give in and turn up at her place this weekend it doesn't sound like you'll be very good good company, and she likely in truth won't get her needs met under those circumstances, while you may end up feeling resentful for being there, and all of that can cascade into more hurt feelings and maybe some unnecessary fighting.

I suggest that you should gently re-state your boundaries, reiterate that you do love her and you do miss her, but that you simply won't be good company this weekend because you are thoroughly wiped, and that you really do need some time to yourself. That way you will have the energy to have a really nice weekend with her the following week. Do NOT talk about your other projects that you want to work on - that will make her feel like your projects are more of a priority in your life than she is and she will focus on it. Emphasize that you plan to use your time for rest and to recharge your mental faculties and that's it.
posted by vignettist at 9:06 PM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think there are 3 issues:

- it sounds like you need to use some annual leave allowance to chill out, catch up with your projects and support your relationship regardless of what this weekend's plans are. A long weekend can't possibly help you fulfil everything you listed in your post as well as recharge after a hellish work week.

- if you're able to take that week off in the near future, maybe that's an offer of time which could reassure your partner that you're committed to the type of relationship she wants (and calm any issues about you having this long weekend to yourself).

- is there a bigger issue behind her comment - is the current relationship model working if one busy fortnight at work makes her feel like that?

On top of that, if the guy at work is a relapsing alcoholic, is this a short term or long term workload increase?
posted by dvrmmr at 11:06 PM on May 18, 2015


Thank you all for your comments. I Skyped with my GF earlier and suffice it to say it got a bit… fraught.

I explained that basically, worn out as I am, I would be terrible company this weekend - grumpy, misanthropic, liable to snap at the slightest things. I know myself well and I know that I need to escape from being around people - though not completely out-of-contact - for a few days just to regather my senses, as lemonade suggested. I reiterated that I'm really looking forward to next week, and suggested that we go out to the coast for a couple of nights to get away from the city. I asked how I could be more nurturing whilst we were apart.

My girlfriend told me that:
  • She feels like I take her for granted, because we don't get to see each other very much.
  • She feels like I only want her to be at the end of the phone / Skype - that seeing her in real life is too much like hard work.
  • That I'm being unreasonable in not wanting to see her, and keeping her at arm's length deliberately ("what kind of boyfriend," she said, "does't want to spend a long weekend with his girlfriend?")
She said that she needed me to figure out why I was so comfortable with being away from her, and what that meant for us. She asked me why I didn't want to move in with her (which kind of came as a surprise; when we talked about her moving up we specifically talked about her getting her own place because my lease runs until the end of the year, and I'm not in a position to go in with her on buying a property right now). She asked whether I actually saw a future for us (which I very much do).

Finally, she told me that since I didn't want to see her this weekend, she'd be turning her phone off, and to not expect her to be in touch ("Since you want to be on your own I figure you'd rather not hear from me," were her exact words, and though I pointed out that that wasn't the case she kept repeating "well, it's your decision at the end of the day, isn't it?").

So… yeah. I appear to have caused a lot of heartache. I was pretty taken aback by some of the things she said. Sure, May has been crappy for us (she's also convinced that I got sick because I saw her at the start of the month, and that somehow my getting flu is a hint that I shouldn't be with her). The things she said about my wanting to keep her at arms length are flat-out wrong; I've done the lion's share of the travelling over the course of our relationship and I've always made the effort to get down to see her at least twice a month.

So tonight I'm left feeling pretty confused, and with a lot to think about. But thank you anyway for your help. I stuck to my boundaries, and I guess when I do that I've got to accept the consequences.
posted by six sided sock at 12:20 PM on May 19, 2015


Is it possible she's just kind of freaking out about the move and is assuming more meaning about things than she otherwise might?
posted by jaguar at 12:22 PM on May 19, 2015


You've mentioned a lot of mental health issues in the history of your relationship together. Is it possible she is having some kind of breakdown/depression relapse? Or some other manifestation of mental illness? Because not only is her reaction to this kind of wayyyy out of proportion, but also because this:

she's also convinced that I got sick because I saw her at the start of the month, and that somehow my getting flu is a hint that I shouldn't be with her

is straight-up not rational healthy person thinking, but rather really worrisome paranoia.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:30 PM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not to thread-sit, but w.r.t this:
We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese: You've mentioned a lot of mental health issues in the history of your relationship together. Is it possible she is having some kind of breakdown/depression relapse? Or some other manifestation of mental illness? Because not only is her reaction to this kind of wayyyy out of proportion, but also because this:

she's also convinced that I got sick because I saw her at the start of the month, and that somehow my getting flu is a hint that I shouldn't be with her

is straight-up not rational healthy person thinking, but rather really worrisome paranoia.
My GF is kinda new-agey about some things — it's one of the few things we disagree on, always cheerfully in a sort of "I love you and I support your right to believe whatever you believe" kind of way. This is one of them: she believes that our bodies only get really sick if there's something upsetting us, or something wrong in our lives. So this isn't paranoia, really, so much as her belief system. I've tried to reassure her about it, but there doesn't seem to be much I can say to get her to see that sometimes we just get flu.

She is a bit low at the moment, due to work stress, not seeing me, and one of her best friend's relationships breaking up in a way that's caused her some personal pain whilst trying to support her friend. She's been on SSRIs for her depression for the last six months and though she's been working on tapering them off, as far as I can tell she's not having a relapse or significant withdrawal symptoms.
posted by six sided sock at 12:41 PM on May 19, 2015


I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other. - R.M. Rilke

People need time alone. You specifically need time to recharge right now.

Your girlfriend is not meeting this task. She is not helping you protect your solitude. She is trying to step on your boundaries and is punishing you for not re-drawing them because she doesn't like them.

She is not being reasonable. She's also given you a hell of a lot of data about the way that she handles things. I'm a bit angry on your behalf: Why is she begrudging you a weekend? In the grand scheme of things, this is nothing - it's a few days, and then you'll see her next weekend. This is nothing. She's shown you that in this situation your needs don't matter as much to her as her own needs, and that's pretty profoundly difficult to get past in a relationship. She would rather punish you and attempt to make your alone time this weekend unpleasant by turning off her phone and fuming at you because she fundamentally does not care about how you feel right now. She is supposed to love you, and she is not protecting you or your solitude right now.

I'm not going to tell you what to do, but I'll leave you with one thing that has always helped me when I'm dealing with interpersonal issues with people who are not treating me well: Pay attention. Pay attention to how she makes you feel when you assert a totally rational, reasonable, logical boundary. Pay attention to yourself. And take care of yourself.
posted by sockermom at 12:51 PM on May 19, 2015 [7 favorites]


Wow, your GF really piled it on about everything at once. It sounds like she has had some insecurities about the relationship in general for awhile, but has not ever brought them up, and now the insecurities are all rearing their ugly head in one big explosive list. I personally do not think she is acting reasonable at all, especially since it sounds like you have basically pleaded with her about the necessity for some down time. Does she need down time, away from people, etc. like you do? Because if she doesn't, that may be the disconnect - maybe she feels like you are lumping in the category of All People Who Exhaust/Drain Me instead of being around her should make you feel better, not worse...?

Well, regardless, I can totally relate to your need for down time Away From All People - most definitely! That is the ONLY way I can even stand to again be AROUND people. And regarding the long-distance issues, yes, I was in a LDR for 5 years, about 4 hours drive away and yes, my BF and I definitely had some hard times about time between visits. Our goal was to, if possible, not let 2 weeks go by without a visit. But you know, sometimes (although rarely), a 4 or 5 weeks might pass and yeah, it sucked. It could have been due to he had to sacrifice a weekend in order to drive to see his parents. Or he was sick or I was sick. Or one of us was traveling for work back to back and the LAST thing we'd want to do was get in the car and then drive for 4 hours. So we were lucky to be on the same page and support each other during those times. Whoever had the best/lightest schedule overall ended up doing most of the traveling.

On those weekends when we planned on seeing each other, or if 2 - 3 weeks had passed, and for whatever reason, it just couldn't be done or the traveler just couldn't handle it, then it was respected. And sure, there was disappointment, and we made sure to keep that communication open about the disappointment and all that, too. Not saying it was easy, but like I said, we were lucky that we both had the same temperament about making the trip, necessary down-time, etc. Of course, we are in our 40s and very independent people, so honestly, I thought of cancellations like "sweet, another weekend for me to watch chick flicks and eat cereal for dinner"kind of perspective! And it all worked out, we are now living together.

Ok, i'll stop rambling on about it, but I think my bottom line is, man, she is just giving you a real hard time about it with all things considered. And a flag for me would be her bringing up the "and why don't you want to move in with me??" issue. I can say, if either my BF or I had applied that level of pressure and manipulation to each other, we wouldn't have made it. I know we are totally different people/ages/relationships, etc. but that just seems a bit harsh to me.

Also, you two may need to revisit her relocating motivations and expectations. She may have some other ideas that she hasn't fully realized or spoke about.

Good luck and stick to your guns. Get your rest.
posted by foxhat10 at 3:08 PM on May 19, 2015


It sounds like a long distance relationship isn't working for her. I know you guys have a history, but if she can't deal with the realities of being far apart then the relationship is going to make you both miserable. And what's the point of that?
posted by bleep at 6:06 PM on May 19, 2015


You might find it beneficial to ask yourself if you can give her what she wants. Everybody enters a relationship with expectations. Can you actually meet hers?

I don't know the answer to whether or not you can, but signs are starting to point directly to No. Loving someone isn't enough. If you can't meet her needs, then reconsider the relationship, because being with someone you're not compatible with is misery on both sides of the fence.
posted by Solomon at 12:22 AM on May 20, 2015


You might find it beneficial to ask yourself if you can give her what she wants. Everybody enters a relationship with expectations. Can you actually meet hers?
I woke up this morning to a text message from her saying that she's struggling to get out of bed and function, that she feels very lonely, that I'm not taking her feelings into account and that she feels like she'll never be a priority for me.

So the answer to this may be "no". The only thing I feel I can do now is discard my plans for alone time at the weekend and go and see her or have her up to see me. I'll be terrible company, I'll want nothing more than to get away from everyone or everything, but that's the only way I can see to resolve this right now. If I say anything to try and reassure her she'll tell me that "words are easy," which is what she kept saying last night.

It doesn't help that I've got some seriously stressful meetings to have this morning, and I can't concentrate properly on anything at all because my mind is trying to be on everything at once.

Anyway, once again, thanks for all your help.
posted by six sided sock at 1:19 AM on May 20, 2015


What you describe sounds to me like someone who feels that their needs have been so disrespected that they are not inclined to respect yours. (Note I say she feels that way, not that it is that way.) It's not good place to be, but it also isn't necessarily something impossible to recover. And it doesn't make her crazy or evil.

I really do think you're underestimating the long weekend factor. As I noted above, I nearly hated weekends together with my current guy because by the time we arrived in the same place and got settled it was time to go again. As much as we loved being together, it was also stressful because we got so little time together that those weekends were just *gone*. We'd both go into the week stressed, which made the other person stressed, etc. We found we did much better when we had more days-- time to unwind and just plain breathe. We did so much better, in fact, that it really did become a drama if one of us decided to spend a long weekend doing something else. To be a couple in the way we both wanted, we needed that breathing space-- together but not necessarily up each other's nose the whole time. Is it possible for you to trade the long weekend for the weekend after? I know you have concert tickets, but maybe you can offer a solution where you spend the long weekend together but you either skip or shorten the weekend after that.

Also, be careful that you are not giving her what she doesn't value. I really value reliability in the time I spend with my partner-- I value it more than quantity. So, for instance, if you are driving more but also bailing more she may feel the bailing more than the driving, if that makes any sense. But you feel you're giving so much because you always do the driving, etc.

Finally, I really do get the "put on your own oxygen" thing. But it sounds as though May really upset her much more than it did you. Also, it feels like there is a discussion about living together which was much more frought for her than it was for you and needs to be revisited. Did she have her say about living together or have you explored what it would be like to be in the same city and not live together? Or was it just so logically self evident for you that it was impossible that there simply was no discussion?

Anyhow-- one way and another it sounds as though you are both at the end of your ropes. Those are hard moments. If what she needs is togetherness and what you need is aloneness then how can you help take care of each other?
posted by frumiousb at 2:38 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just want to pop in and say that I feel like people on here who are saying you need to just suck it up and spend the entire weekend with her anyway don't get how entirely broken and useless an introvert can feel at a time like this. At the risk of sounding too precious--because I sort of hate those "care and feeding of your introvert" lists that are all over the internet--you really are like a car with no gas in it. There is just nothing left. Maybe a better analogy would be to say that it's like telling someone with a high fever to run a marathon; you are just being asked to do something that is really not possible for you. The resources just aren't there.

I say this as an introvert who is in a long-distance relationship with someone in which we are also both very busy and have other time-consuming things we do outside of our day jobs. It means we sometimes squeeze one another into the spaces that are left. Our unspoken agreement is that we are both here to be a refuge from the slew of obligations and not one more obligation to add to the stress. We have both gone longer than we'd like without seeing each other due to other commitments we've had, but although we don't love it when it happens, it's been okay because we are both secure in our feelings for one another, secure as people in our own right, and because we both understand how it is to be busy and burning the candle at both ends. We also both have additional support systems and outlets and friends. I couldn't have it any other way. I don't know if this is helpful or not, just a perspective showing that you can have a relationship that is good and solid and doesn't make these kind of demands. I imagine that like some other commenters here, I remember your posting history and am concerned about you maintaining your boundaries. So, even though it didn't get the response you might have hoped for from your girlfriend, I think you are doing the right thing.
posted by tiger tiger at 3:40 AM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, I get how broken the OP is. But frankly, a weekend of needed rest and relaxation probably won't happen at this point because she's so miserable (I'd bet she calls a lot even if he doesn't go). If he doesn't go, he'll never hear the end of it until they break up. She is not feeling secure, so...he needs to go.

" If what she needs is togetherness and what you need is aloneness then how can you help take care of each other?"

Uh...that would probably require a lot more secure feelings than is going on here. I think the way they could help each other is if she goes to him and doesn't expect him to do much beyond snuggles, but...that'll be up to her.

Good luck, OP. I hope it works out as well as it can.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:22 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


OP, if you go, you're going to be implicitly telling her that all she has to do is throw a tantrum and you'll give up everything you need for yourself, such as time alone to rest and recharge, and attend to her wishes. That's a bad precedent to set, because sooner or later, Life is going to Happen again. And you'll find yourself in this situation, with her having a strop and you having to drop everything and if you can't just drop everything, her escalating the situation. I'd be more sympathetic to her if you were sunning yourself on a beach somewhere, but that's the opposite of what the case is here.

Most supportive partners would be doing what they could to help lighten the load you're under right now, not double down on it and make it worse for you. For all she's talking about you not making her a priority, she doesn't seem to be making you one for herself. Her handling of this situation is kind of red flag-y to me.
posted by Solomon at 8:41 AM on May 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


OP, you may wish to go back and revisit the advice you got in your first round of askme's, because this sounds like a very similar dynamic.
posted by PMdixon at 10:15 AM on May 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


What PMdixon said. Don't fall into the same trap of people-pleasing someone who is never going to be pleased.

She realizes that if she pressures you enough that you can't focus on your work properly, you could lose your job and be homeless, right? Is that what she wants? She seems to 1) not be able to see past tomorrow, which is bad in any relationship and 2) not be able to balance her own needs and yours, as others have said, which is also bad in any relationship.

Tell her gently and firmly that no, you need to focus on your livelihood at the moment, which includes some downtime. Use the famous phrase, "sorry, that won't be possible," and keep repeating it. Really. The world won't come to an end.
posted by Melismata at 11:27 AM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


One last update…

We've spoken and agreed that we need to have a long conversation about all this next week. Right now, I need rest, and I think she sees that — I'm feeling quite anxious and depressed today, a sure sign that I'm close to burning out. I know that three days alone won't sort me out completely, but it will go a long way to getting me back on an even keel - certainly even enough to be capable of being the company she deserves next week.

Thank you all for your help. I guess we'll find our way.
posted by six sided sock at 3:47 PM on May 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


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