Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Am I Too Much of a Loner for My Social Butterfly Girlfriend?”

I’m a man in my 40s and I’ve been in a steady relationship with my partner, “Sylvia,” for the past three months. She and I have great chemistry with intellectual, emotional, and physical compatibility. The issue is that I’m very much a loner and, in contrast, her lifestyle involves a lot of family and friends. I’m respectful, courteous, and kind, but I’m not looking forward to meeting her family or friends. I’m not anti-social from a personality standpoint — I have an engaging and bright personality, but I want to participate very sparingly in her family and friend events.

I prefer to spend most of our time one-on-one and not spend the majority of our time double-dating or with her family. As the relationship progresses, I’ll be in a position where I have to potentially attend weddings, funerals, parties, and dinners. I also like to spend time on my own so I can recharge my batteries. I know I sound selfish, but I am what I am.

Am I too set in my ways after being out of a relationship for such a long time? I doubt it. I think I’m just a loner. I want to change… but can I change? If so, how? — Too Set In My Ways?

Well, first of all, you’re making a lot of assumptions based on three months with this woman and what sounds like maybe no conversations about your concerns.. Have you talked to Sylvia about her lifestyle, about her expectations of a partner, and about your ideal long-term relationship? Maybe her lifestyle doesn’t include as much socializing as you think it does, or maybe she’s perfectly fine — happy, even — attending some family and friend events on her own, without a partner in tow. But, yes, if you’re in a long-term relationship with someone who has family and friends (which is pretty much everyone) and is even a little bit social, you will be expected to meet said loved ones eventually and will probably be expected to show up at events, like weddings and the occasional get-together. But the frequency of this is really up for discussion and negotiation, and you can have those discussions and negotiations in time, and on an ongoing basis.

I, too, require a lot of time alone to recharge. Alone time isn’t always easy to come by as a mother of two young children, but I get it in. I’ve designed my life in a way that I still have blocks of time to myself, even if the time is spent working (it’s solo work, so to me it counts as alone time). I have realized though that one of the challenges of being a mother of young kids is that if I want to socialize my children, which I do, I really need to be more social than I would be if I didn’t have kids. I organize a lot of play dates and get-togethers with other families. Our weekends are often jam-packed with kid birthday parties, group picnics, visiting family, and hosting my kids’ friends (and often their parents) for afternoon hang-outs or dinners. Sometimes, by the end of the weekend, I can hardly wait for Monday morning when everyone goes away (my son to school, my husband to work, my daughter out with our part-time nanny) and leaves me alone so I have a few hours to be productive and hear myself think again. And yet, I wouldn’t trade this life of near-constant social activity despite being sometimes socially adverse.

For me, the trade-off (of my privacy, quiet time, “me” time) is worth all the extra love in my life. And I don’t just mean the love I get from my husband and kids. I have found that the community we’ve built — the community that would not exist for me had I chosen a different path that didn’t include a family of my own — brings a lot of love, too. It can be a lot of work to maintain all these relationships and to keep showing up and to help my kids foster their friendships, but it’s worth it. And as long as I continue having these pockets of time during the week to be alone (to work, to exercise, to run errands, or to just be), I stay relatively sane.

You don’t have to have the whole family. And maybe even having a long-term partner will prove to ask too much from you. Or, maybe this specific partner and her social needs will not mesh with your lifestyle and personal needs. But you don’t know until you experiment. Talk to Sylvia, meet her family and friends, give this relationship a shot, and see if you can find a compromise that works for you both. That’s what dating is all about. You figure out what sacrifices you’re willing to make and whether the benefits offered to you in return are worth it. If you decide they aren’t, you move on. But it would definitely be premature to move on now before you even see what compromises might be asked of you and what benefits would be gained.

My boyfriend and I have been together for about three months. He courted me for five months. He’s in the army and recently found out that he’ll be deploying to Iraq for nine months in September. He told me that he’s considering breaking up/putting our relationship on hold prior to deployment. He says he wants us to have a future and doesn’t want this deployment to ruin what we have. He also mentioned the fact that we’re both young (I am 23 and he is 24) and not married, and he thinks my waiting for him is too much to ask of me.

I know our relationship is still new, but I feel as though we have shared something very real and worthy of holding on to. He was stationed at my home base for almost a year before moving to a different state two months ago, so we’ve been doing the long-distance thing since then and have managed it very well. We connect on so many levels, really seem to understand one another, and get along great. He even asked me to meet his family, and so we arranged a flight and I met them while he was doing some hometown recruitment. For a while it all seemed too good to be true, and now I’m worried that perhaps it is.

I’ve been in an abusive relationship prior to him and was also in an abusive situation as a child, so being with someone who truly cares for my well- being, makes me a priority, and makes me feel special is something I desperately want to keep.

We’ve agreed to wait until the next time we’re able to visit each other in three weeks to readdress this matter and to remain together for now (he’d prefer to stay together up to September, but I don’t find that fair to me). I just don’t how to address this conversation we’ll soon have. I want to convince him that what we have is worth holding on to and preserving, but I’m not sure how or if it’s even appropriate. I would appreciate any advice you may have and thank you for your time! — Afraid to Lose Something Great

 

Tell him that one of the things you love about him is his respect for you and your feelings, and that when he makes unilateral decisions about your relationship, you don’t feel he is respecting you. Because he’s not. You realize that, don’t you? When a partner says, “This is what I want because this is what’s best for you and for me,” but he doesn’t actually ask what you want or what you’re willing to compromise, that’s not being respectful. That isn’t caring for your well-being, or prioritizing your feelings, or making you feel special — all the things you said are important to you and what you love about your boyfriend.

To put your relationship on hold, with the idea that it will preserve what you have and to better ensure a future together, is a decision you need to make together. If he’s making the decision without — or in spite of — your input, then there is no future together. How can you have a future with someone who discounts your feelings? You can’t. So, in a sense, there’s a line in the sand. There’s breaking up or there’s staying together. If he unilaterally chooses the former without your input, then that’s it, your relationship is over, and you should MOA. If you decide together to put things on hold, or to remain in a relationship through his deployment, you also have to decide together what that means and what that looks like. If you’re “on hold,” do you still keep in touch? Date other people? Tell each other if/when you’re dating other people? If you stay together, are you monogamous? Do you have an open relationship (and if so, what are the rules?). And when he gets back to the states, what’s the long-term plan for your relationship? At what point do you close the distance?

Finally, remember: this is a new relationship. You’ve been together three months, two of which have been long distance. Are you really, truly willing to commit to this person and remain faithful for many months while he’s deployed? His concern about this — especially given your young age — is warranted, and you should do some serious soul-searching before you present your argument that you’re ready for this challenge.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

19 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Janelle June 1, 2017, 10:50 am

    LW2: I feel that regardless of why, if someone says they want to “take a break”, “put it on hold”, etc. it truly means they want to end it. It is a new relationship and you are young. While it would be great if this ended up being the ONE, I do believe age of relationship, age, circumstances make the chances kind of low. Just a fact of life, nothing you are doing wrong. I also think going to full long distance in less than 3 months is a lot. I know I just would have likely stopped dating the person and wished it didn’t go that way.

    Based on your past and just some logic it sounds a bit like you might be too invested too soon. It seems like it should slow down if you ask me. I’d take what he says at face value, have no expectations, communicate while he is gone if you wish and see where it lands when he returns.

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    • avatar

      ArgyllWisp June 1, 2017, 1:22 pm

      Yeah, it seems to me he wants to breakup but wants to not be a bad guy. So it’s all about what’s best for “her”. I would tell him to stop speaking on her behalf, tell him her desires for their relationship and then ask for his feelings. Not his BS versions of what she might “really” feel or need, but what HE feels and needs. I suspect if pressed he’ll say he wants to end it, and he frankly has a lot of valid reasons he could choose for why it would be best for HIM to do so. And then I’d end it then, not wait out the summer for the inevitable.

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  • avatar

    Northern Star June 1, 2017, 11:14 am

    LW 2: I disagree with Wendy. I don’t think your boyfriend is being disrespectful to you—I think he’s protecting himself. And he’s smart.

    We’ve all heard the stories about women cheating on their husbands or boyfriends while they’re deployed. It’s common—and your relationship is brand-new. I think your boyfriend is right, and that taking a break while he’s gone is wise. If you choose to get back together when he returns: Great! If you meet someone else and move on: That’s great, too. If you choose not to wait until September to break up, that’s also fair.

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    • TaraMonster

      TaraMonster June 1, 2017, 1:28 pm

      I agree with this. It didn’t sound to me like LW’s boyfriend was making a unilateral decision since they’ve agreed to talk about it in 3 weeks. He put his cards on the table by telling her where his head is at, but she’s not obligated to take or leave those terms. I actually think he’s being super realistic and upfront about it, which is commendable.

      The rest of the advice is totally solid, though. Those are good questions/points for LW to consider when making such a big decision.

      Coincidentally, my brother is actually in a nearly identical situation and they have agreed that their relationship will end in Sept when he is deployed. It’s a tough position to be in. I feel for ya, LW.

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    • avatar

      Anonymous June 4, 2017, 3:02 am

      Thank you, and I agree with you. I’m trying to understand how difficult all of this may be for him and that a lot of his feelings right now are based off of fearing the unknown. What has thrown me off the most is that none of these feelings he’s recently shared with me surfaced, until after he went to a month long training period and spoke with men that shared the heart break they felt when their significant other cheated on them during a deployment. I almost feel as though he’s comparing their situation to our potential situation which I don’t find fair or justifiable.

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  • avatar

    Howdywiley June 1, 2017, 11:24 am

    LW1:
    You are an introvert. She is an extrovert. That can be really difficult and won’t change.

    My husband and I are extreme introverts and THANK GOODNESS we both are or it wouldn’t work.

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    • avatar

      MoeP June 1, 2017, 5:09 pm

      It can work, though. My sister is a huge extrovert and her husband is an introvert, and they are very happy together. She goes out with her buddies and he has a chance to regroup.

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    • avatar

      MissDre June 2, 2017, 6:22 am

      @Howdywiley I am a huge introvert too, and I used to feel the same way as you. I thought my ex and I were such a great match because we were both introverts. But I got to the point where I did want to go out once in a while and he didn’t want to. He didn’t want ANYTHING to do with my friends and family. We took a trip to another city for the weekend once and all he wanted to do was stay inside the hotel and watch tennis. I realized that while I am an introvert, I do need SOME sort of social life.

      When I started dating again, one of the things I was looking for was someone more outgoing than I am, someone to help get me out of the house and out of my shell. My new BF is SUCH an extrovert! He’s so social and he talks so much and he talks to everybody and he likes to get out of the house and do things. It’s nice because it feels like a good balance. It’s great because he gets me out of my comfort zone, but at the same time he respects when I just want to stay in the house in my PJs. Hopefully things continue to feel balanced 🙂

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  • avatar

    csp June 1, 2017, 11:29 am

    LW2 – I went through a deployment with a man about 15 years ago. We weren’t really together but we weren’t really apart. It was messy and awkward and it didn’t last. I have a cousin who was in your situation where it was a very new relationship and they weren’t exclusive but stayed in contact and wrote each other. It gave them time to get to know each other and they are now married with 3 kids and very happy. Here is what I would say. Have an honest conversation with him about what you are looking for and feeling. Maybe don’t put labels on things but stay in contact. You will see how things unfold while he is away.

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    • avatar

      Anonymous June 6, 2017, 2:08 pm

      Thank you I feel this may be a good idea.

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  • avatar

    Anonymous June 1, 2017, 2:32 pm

    Please don’t be “desperate” to keep this relationship. You can be fine by yourself. This approach will help you a lot, whatever happens. You are right not to date with a breakup deadline. That doesn’t work for you and for anyone. Tell him how you feel, but accept that it perhaps will end because he gives signs in this way. But this is not the end of the world: remember, you will be fine. Keep your options open. You might feel well with someone else, who is present and respectful to you. Don’t cling to that relationship because it is difficult and you feel rejected. This is desperation and abuse reenactement. Let it go. Time will tell if it holds or not. And refuse the offer to date till he leaves to Iraq. The more you set your limits, the more he will respect you. Good luck.

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    • avatar

      Anonymous June 6, 2017, 2:16 pm

      Thank you, and I feel that saying I desperately don’t want to lose this was poor wording on my part. I’m aware that with or without him I will be fine. I wouldn’t say that I’m desperate, I just really would prefer staying together, because we’re fresh in love and although he’s considering us not making it through the deployment, He is still putting effort into us currently. Its crazy how even miles away he still makes me feel as though I am worthy of being a priority. I will not know his final decision until the end of the month and I feel the hardest fact of losing him is that I have never been cherished and treated with the respect he gives me, by any man before; also I’ve never loved someone for all the right reasons before and these are feelings I don’t want to lose.

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  • avatar

    Sarah June 1, 2017, 2:50 pm

    LW1, if you value your own personal time so much that you wouldn’t give up an afternoon to support your partner at a funeral, you might want to rethink having a partner at all. I can certainly see skipping out on some things to recharge (goodness knows I do it), but not wanting to have to be there for someone at a funeral is something entirely different.

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    • avatar

      artsygirl June 1, 2017, 4:39 pm

      Exactly – attending a funeral, wedding, or some other milestone family event is about supporting your partner and unless your GF has a massive extended family, it isn’t like these events would even happen every month (or even every year).

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  • avatar

    Northern Star June 1, 2017, 3:35 pm

    Yeah, LW 1, you DO sound pretty selfish. Your view of yourself is bang-on. You’ve proactively decided that the people your “partner” loves and wants to spend time with are boring jerks. You don’t even know these people, and you want nothing to do with them.

    “Lone wolves” are single. Just a thought.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark June 1, 2017, 9:35 pm

    LW1) Eh, who cares. But yes — you probably are too much of a loner for a social butterfly. Nothing is more exciting than somebody who wants to sit home all the time… yawn.
    .
    LW2) In my book, when somebody is going off to war — male or female — they kinda have carte blanche about ending a relationship. If you’re truly meant to be. Then you can get back together AFTER his deployment. Frankly, you’re both very young. So young that this relationship would probably be doomed deployment or not. But yeah, I suspect he is just trying to let you down easily here as you seem so fragile.

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    • bittergaymark

      bittergaymark June 1, 2017, 9:39 pm

      Also — good fucking grief — you’ve been dating, what? ALL OF THREE MONTHS?! Who the heck even knows if you’ll even STILL be together come September. NEWSFLASH: Sometimes it’s best to cross bridges when you come upon them. No need to plan a strategy to do so months and months ahead.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros June 2, 2017, 7:46 am

    LW1: There’s a difference between being a “loner”and needing time to recharge. I am an introvert, but it doesn’t mean I hate interacting with other humans. Sure, talk to her, but I think that you’re going to have to be very particular in finding a partner in the future who doesn’t like their family and has no friends, which usually implies other negative things about them, unfortunately. I know I couldn’t be with someone who wanted to be alone with me all the time. I’d feel like I was in one of those suffocating high school relationships.

    LW2: Don’t wait for him. You may feel like you truly know him, but you’ve known him too little to put your life on hold for him. Even long term couples often don’t make it through deployments. He may be “blaming” you, but maybe he doesn’t want to be tied down to someone he barely knows. If you’re meant to be, then when he comes back, you guys can pick things up again if you’re still interested.

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  • avatar

    Anonymous June 4, 2017, 2:55 am

    He did ask me what I wanted, and I told him I found him well worth the wait and would prefer not to put things on hold, rather support him while he’s away. Afterwards he told me what he wanted. He hasn’t made a decision thus far, and says he needs time to decide. However, he was up front and honest in what he’d prefer, which is what I shared with you as above. I’ve still not had a face to face conversation with him as he is miles away from me right now. We’ve both agreed that it is something we should discuss in person and therefore have mutually decided to hold off on any further discussions regarding this matter, until we see each other. We still talk on a daily basis, and thus far he has not become distant in anyway and continues to keep good communication. I appreciate your time in responding, and am taking into consideration all that you shared. I am hoping for the best, yet preparing myself to lose him.

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