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Relationship Health Message Board

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Hi Sophia,

I'm sorry to hear you're having a tough time lately...for what it's worth, I really don't see any signs here that you need to be concerned. It's so hard not to worry and analyze everything, but in doing so, you run the risk of creating problems where none really existed and talking yourself out of being happy and carefree within your relationship. I think Blue Eyed Lady gave you excellent advice, as always :), and I also agree with what Ruth said. I do think it's important to make a distinction between men who want to be with you every second because they're needy, lonely, desperate, or controlling, and men who just really like you and while they maintain a healthy life of their own, would prefer that you be around when they have free time if you're available. The latter guys make you feel special and wanted, not tied down and overwhelmed. I don't think any of us are dealing with this former type of man, so that's not really worth discussing, I just wanted to point out that it's not accurate to lump the two men together as clingy, desperate, bad news guys.

Ok, Sophia, anyway, back to your situation: the way I see it, one of the main reasons you like NG is because he's confident, sociable, well-adjusted, and has a fulfilling life of his own. I am sure that he admires the same qualities in you, and you should try and keep in mind that as your relationship develops, he is keeping an eye out to see whether you are happy maintaining your independence and have a full life irrespective of whether he's part of it, or whether you are one of those people who is looking for a partner because they need someone to fill a void, rather than looking for someone to enrich their already fulfilling and satisfying life. He may in fact be hypersensitive to any signs that you fit into that latter category and aren't in fact as secure, confident, and content with your own life as you seem. No one finds it attractive when someone needs them, or when they revolve their world around their partners because they have very little going on otherwise...this is clearly not the case with you, which is a huge selling point in your favor, and so it's important that he sees that you are happy being independent rather than one of those women men dread because they are clingy, desperate, and seeking to ensnare a man in order to have something to center their otherwise empty lives around. I bring this up because you and NG are still feeling each other out at this point, and just as you are scrutinizing his behavior for signs that he truly adores you and wants to commit to you, he's scrutinizing your conduct for any red flags that you are going to do a 180 degree turnaround once he falls for you. Basically, he's probably wondering if he has any reason to fear that the confident, secure, and independent Sophia he's falling for will turn into a needy, insecure leech once he lets his guard down. I can certainly see why men fear this, as I don't think any women want this kind of partner either, though I do think men can be a little too paranoid and read too much into any negative signs in their vigilance to avoid clingy and desperate women.

Another thing that is important to remember as a relationship develops is that while we want our partners to understand us and intuitively sense what we want and need from us, it's actually quite unfair and destructive to expect anyone to read our minds--particularly when we are going to hold it against them when they don't live up to our unvoiced expectations of them. It's completely understandable to want to spend time with him, but you need to tell him in no uncertain terms what you want or risk feeling disappointed and let down when he doesn't successfully read your signals. In his mind, spending time with family and friends is important both because he enjoys their company and because he knows that the happiest and healthiest relationships are those in which both partners maintain friendships and close bonds with people besides their partner. Try to remember that he's not looking at his weekend plans as avoiding you or not spending time with you like you are--he's just trying to maintain his own independent life and relationships outside of you, which is a very important and healthy decision. After all, if he all of a sudden dropped everything to spend every second with you, chances are you wouldn't be nearly as interested in him as you were before when you saw him socializing and maintaining a happy independent life. Everyone wants a partner who not only understands the importance of having relationships outside of their romantic ones, but who is confident and secure enough not to feel threatened or doubt their partner's commitment when he or she spends time outside the relationship.

I also think it's really important to men not to feel tied down or suffocated--in the long run, they only stay with women who let them do what they want and therefore give them the chance to choose to make her the center of their worlds. The more freedom and trust we give a good man, the more he will voluntarily want to be around us and make us their main priority in life--but this has to be a choice he thinks he came up with all on his own, NOT something we expect or demand from them. Women who mope or pout or make men feel guilty about doing things without her never last long with any man worth having, and the same is probably true when the genders are reversed. There's nothing more attractive than maintaining your own life outside your relationship, along with having the confidence to not let it bother or threaten you when your partner does the same. I'm certainly not trying to say you are doing any of these negative things, Sophia--in fact, I think you've handled everything really well. I struggle with a lot of these issues's very difficult not to feel unsure and insecure at times, especially with a new relationship. But it's so important not to let these fears make your mind work overtime and allow yourself to indulge in overanalyzing and overthinking everything, which can all too easily lead you to create previously nonexistant problems out of thin air. I'd hate to see you fall into such a pattern, both for your own well-being and sense of security and for the sake of your budding relationship with NG. It's impossible not to let our past experiences color our present and future relationships, but while you're very wise to be cautious and not make excuses for any bad behavior, it's also important not to let your past lead you to make assumptions about NG that aren't warranted by his own behavior. It's a fine and tricky line to walk between protecting ourselves and punishing perfectly kind, respectful people for the mistakes of others in our pasts.

The best advice I can give you here is to let your past make you alert to red flags, but not to let it motivate you to make assumptions that aren't necessarily true...if NG has a problem with the distance, let him tell you. If he's not interested in spending as much time together on the weekends, let him tell you, but don't assume that his choice to spend time with his family and friends means that he doesn't want to spend time with you. A four hour round trip commute is a big deal, and while he may have been perfectly happy to work out a way to squeeze you in, there's no way he could have known this was as important to you as it is without you cluing him into this fact in no uncertain terms. It's really not fair to him for you to be angry or disappointed that he didn't make time for you this weekend when you never let him know how much you wanted him to do so. Remember that he can't read your mind, and so he can't live up to your expectations if you don't tell him what it is you expect. Also, I definitely don't think you should send the email about the distance thing and plant any negative ideas in his that if it's an issue for him, he'll let you know himself. But otherwise, why would you want to plant such seeds of doubt in his mind? We could all be so much happier if we would avoid creating problems unnecessarily by worrying too much and being overzealous in our efforts to protect ourselves from future hurt...the scary thing about love is that there is just never anyway to guarantee you won't get hurt, but I do know that the more we try to avoid being vulnerable, the less chance we have of developing an open, honest, and lasting bond with someone we love. It's one thing to discuss your concerns about the distance thing and let him know if spending time together each weekend is something you want him to commit to--I don't think there's anything wrong with letting him know that you'd like to try to make plans together each weekend as long as you are both available.

But in general, remember that guys aren't nearly as astute when it comes to picking up on our signals as women assume and expect...I am also pretty oblivious, and trust me, people like me, including most men, really appreciate when others let us know what they want in clear language. I think men want to please us a lot more than we realize, and in my experience, they are very grateful when we take pity on them and just come right out and tell them what we want, why we're mad, etc. While it may seem more romantic for them to be able to read our minds, they just can't do so, and expecting differently just leads to confusion, frustration, and poor communications for both partners. I hope my ramblings have helped at least somewhat...I think they've helped clarify a few things for me and will help be easier on Justin when he doesn't always live up to my expectations. I think men and women are both trying their best, but there's only so much we can do without candid and frequent communication about what we want and need from each other. Good luck Sophia--and enjoy your weekend with or without NG, OK?? :)
Hi Sophia,

Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry. I can totally understand why you're disappointed and confused. If this doesn't qualify as mixed signals, I don't know what does! I really don't think you should let him leave you hanging for three weeks not really knowing what's going the very least, you should tell him you don't think it's right to remain exclusive while he's gone having seen each other only casually and infrequently of late. I would try very hard to have this next conversation somewhere private in person, not on the phone, because it may be too important a conversation to suscept it to the misunderstandings and feeling of distance that often occur during phone calls. If it's important to you to have the best possible chance at getting a resolution--positive or not--I'd suggest you go up there one night this week and speak with him rather than having to wait to deal with anything in person until he returns who knows when.

It sounds like your reaction was fairly similar to mine during the dispute I had with Justin over the weekend. Like you, I was frustrated because I didn't see that he was making the kind of effort I wanted him to put forth in order to spend time with me, show he cares about me, show he misses me, and most frustratingly, not going out of his way to see me. Sophia, as a friend I think I should say that you seem to be overthinking this and in my view, being a bit harsh on Nick. It's hard not to look at and evaluate your AND NG's actions using your viewpoint and expectations, so you assume that if he's not doing everything you'd like him to do if he was reading your mind, then clearly he doesn't care about you very much and definitely not as much as you care about him, grr. This is exactly how my thinking went last night when I got frustrated with Justin in a very similar manner to how you're feeling about NG--and just like it sounds you may be doing, I essentially created problems out of thin air by insisting that there must be a problem on his part and suggesting possible reasons I had decided he wasn't as into me (or at least not showin git) as I thought I should have. We sat sadly in silence contemplating the silly faulty assumptions, stubborn declarations which we didn't mean which we had said, and the foolish misundestandings we're still learning to communicate about and move past for several hours As we thought things over, Justin's insecurities became clearer and more obvious--he kept asking questions about things he think I may have said the night when he and his jerk friend got drunk such as if I felt like he wasn't the right guy for me, if we weren't such a good match overall, if he could really give me what I wanted from a man and a relationship etc.

The point is, men are often even more insecure and vulnerable when it comes to women they like...probably for a number of reasons, including that they aren't raised to believe it's ok to fall in love or get strongly emotionally attached to someone or feel hurt if they open up and trust a woman then get betrayed. Combined with the fact that they're generally expected to make the first moves when it comes to asking their girl out, going for a first kiss, getting women into bed, and even proposing marriage. That's a lot of pressure and must be pretty scary if it compares to how scared I feel about having my feelings exposed to Justin! Anyway, please hang in there and give it a chance...see how things go; you'll be able to tell next time you're around NG in person. Good luck Sophia...remember we're here when you need us, and good luck!

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