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Dear Breakup Girl,
I've been dating my boyfriend for five months. He's 32, an attorney, and I'm
27, a third-year law student. We see each other as frequently as our insanely
busy schedules permit -- sometimes just once a week, sometimes three or four
times a week. I usually spend the weekend nights at his house, and maybe we'll
have dinner during the week. We share common interests, goals, values, and,
in general, I'm quite happy.
The problem: I don't want to be a "high maintenance" girlfriend.
My last serious relationship (three years of living together) ended with great
evilness on both our parts, and the lasting legacy I took from that relationship
was a constant feeling that my complaints must be logical, rational, sensible,
and expressed quietly and at a time convenient for "him" (whoever
him is). My ex-boyfriend really trained me well!
Now, when I feel irritated or hurt by something my current boyfriend does
(and so far they've been relatively minor, inadvertent things), I talk myself
out of expressing myself about it -- maybe 75-90% of the time. I don't want
to sound whiny, demanding, insecure, or any of those typically "girly" things.
Am I crazy for even thinking of them as "typically girly"? But when I catch
myself thinking, "I wish you'd compliment my eyes the way you used to when we
started dating," or "I wish you wanted me to spend the night more often, even
though we both have to work early in the morning," I seem to picture my boyfriend
either responding, "Wow, you have pretty eyes" just because I asked him to (not
because he felt that way inside) or worse, saying "No, I just don't want you
to spend the night more often," or worst, thinking to himself while he says
anything else, "Geez, all girls are alike; they want constant reassurance
and attention, and I don't have time for this kind of neediness!"
So help me find a way to word my requests without being whiny or demanding
or "high maintenance," and help me get over this idea that expressing
my wants and needs is symptomatic of being insecure and high maintenance (unless
it IS insecure and high maintenance, in which case just shoot me)!
Well, since you're asking BG instead of him ("You
would tell me if I were high-maintenance, right? I mean, you would let me know
if it started to feel like I was badgering you, right? 'Cause I'd really hate
to think that you're sitting there thinking I'm high-maintenance when all I
really want is to make sure I'm not being annoying. So you would tell me, right?
Right?..."), you're probably in pretty good shape to begin with.
But while we're here, let's try to amplify the "context,"
as discussed briefly above. You might worry that you sound naggy/girly,
but arguably, you have no idea how he would hear such things. For example,
well, look how "well" your last boyfriend "trained" you.
What about this guy's GF-1? Maybe she was a prickly Porcupina who skewered any
attempt at sweetness, so he "learned" to hold back. Maybe she was
the girl in the first paragraph, in which case you are either (a) by comparison,
a breath of low-maint air no matter what you do, or (b) in trouble, as he's
primed to prick back at the slightest hint of "that again."
Hmm! Don't know if that's reassuring or terrifying, but the point is, he's gonna
react how he's gonna react all by himself.
That said, Georgia, humans are insecure and high-maintenance.
We are. (Remember, BG was bone-crushingly jealous of her BF-2's crush on Benazir
Bhutto. Fortunately it wasn't that hard to keep them apart.) Even the cold
distant fishies among us are just the preemptive "Other humans can't breathe
in water! I'll be safe here!" version of same. It's just that some of us
are better than others at letting our superegos muffle our whiny ids. And telling
the difference among (to partner) "Um, it's more important for you to rub
my feet than it is for you watch that documentary about the leadership of India
in the 20th century" and (to self) "Um, it's more important for you
to rub my feet than it is for you watch that documentary about the leadership
of India in the 20th century," and (to self) "I am actually
not being treated like the The Bomb that
I am." ("Or, at least, sometimes I don't feel like I am, so -- note
to self -- let's get to the bottom of that.")
That parenthetical statement is actually not so parenthetical.
Ask him questions about him, and about you, plural. Like -- this is
going to sound a little dorky, but you'll know what I mean -- "Hey,
are there ways we could bring back some of that giddiness from month M-5? What
think?" Or "Let's figure out some ways for us to spend the night and
get to work on time. What say?" That kind of thing. Not that anyone
should walk on eggshells in that "Don't bother Daddy when he's in the den"
sort of way, but hey, if you can't get something going this way in the first
place, then, well ... see "The Bomb," above.
'Cause Georgia, well, it's not like you're on the Breakup
List or anything. But BG can't help but observe that your description of
your relationship -- though the elements you cite are key -- has
all the romance of a Secured Transaction UCC Article 9 filing. I don't know,
maybe I'm reading too much (little) in here. But heck, maybe you are being too
careful. Maybe what you really want to say is, "Dammit, adore me or else!"
And be willing to act on the "else."
Not because he's been "bad," but maybe because "it's" not
there? I mean, there's worth-it work, for sure sure sure. But it must grow from
bottom-line commitment and passion and legit challenge (e.g. lawyers'/law school
schedules), not float in indifference. (I'm honestly not sure which this is;
forgive me if I'm way off. Just (all of you) remember that leaving when you
know you need to is really low-maintenance.)
PS: CJanelleS, this is also a shoutout to you. I'm
tired of your doing all the work.
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