I stumbled across your blog courtesy of the excellent Sexy Typewriter’s blog and have become a regular reader.
Since I enjoy reading your sage advice to other people, I figured I should see if you (and/or the wonderful community of commenters to your blog) can help me out with an issue that’s been nagging at me.
I’m in my late 20s and I’m dating a girl who is amazing and is compatible with me in so many ways—except for one. She’s remarkably busy. Part of her busyness is that she’s involved in a lot of non-work activities (sports, plays) and also she’s been rather sick (with the schedule of non-work activities seeming to run her into the ground).
So what’s happened is while at the start of the relationship we were seeing each other 2-3 times a week, lately it’s dwindled down to once every other week. Though we’ve stayed in pretty constant contact through texting, emailing and the internet, the in-person time just hasn’t been there.
I really like this girl, but I’m kind of at a loss of what to do or say to her at this point. We’re 4 months in and some of her activities pre-date our relationship, but she’s added others on top as well. I don’t consider myself to be a generally needy guy when I’m in a relationship (does anyone?), but I’m struggling with whether given the amount of time we’re actually physically together if I’m in a relationship at all, or just a weird digital friendship.
Is there advice or guidance that you might be able to offer good Captain?
Neglected or Needy?
Dear Neglected or Needy,
I’ve been thinking a lot about ApeMan1976’s comment in the table manners thread, about the least controlling way to go about changing someone’s behavior is to approach them with honesty.
So for you, it’s honesty time. During the talk you need to have, you can get a long way with questions and very concrete suggestions for how you can spend more time together. For instance:
- Is your schedule always like this, or did I just meet you at an unusually busy time?
- Are you happy with how often we hang out? Are you happy with how packed your schedule is?
- Would you be willing to set aside a day of the week that’s just for us to spend time together?
But you have to get down to business in there somewhere. “Listen, I really, really like you, and I want you to be happy and engaged in stuff you love to do, but I really want to see more of you. Can we work something out?”
Risk appearing needy. Put it out there.
And then really listen to what she says.
I can maybe tell you some of her secrets. Of the two people in your relationship, I relate more to Busy Girl because when I’m working on a film, FORGET IT. It will consume all my waking hours and I will dream about it when I’m asleep. Plays are like that, too. If she’s in the theater, this is a cyclical thing that will happen a few times a year, and it will always consume her because when you make a film or a play you make a family of people and you also create a thing and there is nothing harder but more fun to do in the world and we all do it because we’re in love with it and we’re in love with each other while we do it. If I’m dating someone when I’m working on a movie, I still like/love him, but my mind is just on other stuff for a while, and I haven’t figured out how to have balance. I’ve made more than one nice man feel like you probably feel right now.
So if a romantic partner says “Man, you’re always so busy, you need to pay more attention to me and I need to see you more” my hackles go up, because I am really stressed out and already feel sort of guilty for neglecting him, but also, does he not understand that my true love is THE CINEMA? But if he says “Stop by when you’re done with the location scout,” and I do and there is food and I have a place to just relax and pet and be petted? I may fall asleep really quickly in an awkward position and drool on the arm of his sofa, but I will fall asleep really happy, because I did the thing I love and then I got home and was loved. The way my brain works, sometimes solving the problem of “We need to see each other more” is anxiety-producing, but “I’d love to see you tonight, even for a little while” is something I can handle. It just works better for me when it is expressed as something concrete that I can do something about. That probably makes me really difficult and annoying to date when I’m working on a film. But I’ll always have THE CINEMA! And narcissism!
Also, listen. We fill our lives with activities that we enjoy so that we’ll be occupied, engaged, and interesting. And then we meet someone, and it takes some juggling to figure out how to fit the other person into the life we’ve created. Someone who immediately drops all their cool hobbies when they get a partner, like, okay, now I have a reason to live and I don’t need soccer practice anymore is kind of, I don’t know, empty? I suspect that if this thing is going to work out with you two, the right balance will involve carving out a day or so every week that’s just for the two of you, finding some activity that both of you do together, and you also concentrating hard on your own pursuits to give her space to go after hers. If you start looking at “the cool things she does with her time” as a zero-sum game of “all the things she’d rather be doing than spend time with you,” and approach your relationship with that mindset, I’m sorry – it’s doomed.
You’re not crazy or wrong or too needy for wanting to see her more, and for expressing it. Own that affection for her. Own that lust. That stuff is real and important to you. She may in fact be a bit over-scheduled and trying to figure out how to balance everything and also work you in, as in “this play is over in 3 weeks, then I’ll make it up to him”, or she might be totally okay with your current level of contact, in which case, you probably need a new girlfriend. Get in there and talk to each other about it so you can find out now, before another 4 months get lost in the whirlwind. If your needs aren’t being met and don’t look like they will be met by this person at this time, bail before you get more invested.