My boyfriend of three and a half years is spending way too much time with “Jim,” a neighbor friend in our new building. Jim’s not a bad guy and his wife and I get along fine as well, but a few weeks ago he started hanging out at our place with my boyfriend every evening and staying there until 9 or 10 o’clock — sometimes even later. I told my boyfriend that I don’t like that there’s always someone in our home and I can never really relax, but later that night, when Jim knocked on the door, my boyfriend let him right in. And the next night, he invited Jim and his wife over for dinner!
We ended up having a huge argument about it. I told him how much it hurt me that he disregarded my feelings. He apologized and told me he’d listen more and wouldn’t have Jim over so often. He even told Jim how I felt. It was fine for about two weeks. But now it’s right back to how it was — I come home every night to find Jim in my living room. I’m really upset about it because my boyfriend knows how I feel about this — after our argument it should be pretty clear. And I know if I bring it up again he’ll tell me that I’m too controlling. Of course, I also don’t want things to be awkward with us and our neighbors, because I do enjoy spending time with them. So, how on earth do I tell my boyfriend that this needs to stop without ruining my relationship with him and my friendship with our neighbors? — Crossed Boundaries
What worries me the most about your letter is not how present your neighbors are, but how much you’re hesitating to express your (very reasonable) feelings again for fear of being called too controlling or “ruining” your relationship. It’s bad enough your boyfriend has guests over every single night of the week without your blessing. It’s even worse that he continues having those guests over after you’ve told him that it bothers you. It’s downright unacceptable if he has given the message that your feelings don’t have merit. Let’s get this straight: there is nothing — NOTHING — controlling about requesting that your live-in partner refrain from having guests over every night of the week. If your boyfriend has manipulated you into thinking otherwise, you have far bigger problems than overly friendly neighbors.
I suggest you have a sit-down, heart-to-heart talk with your boyfriend about the state of your union. Lay it all out there: how upset you are that he has repeatedly disregarded you feelings, along with anything else you think warrants discussion. Ask him if there’s a reason you are unaware of for him wanting Jim over all the time. Is he unhappy in your relationship? Is he avoiding being alone with you? Then, be very, very clear about what it is that you want. If it’s to have alone time with him three or four evenings a week, tell him that. Let him know what the limit is for having the neighbors over, so he doesn’t feel like he has to “ask permission” every time he invites them over. And let him know that if he repeatedly goes over that limit, he is sending a clear message that he doesn’t value your feelings, and you cannot commit to a relationship in which you are repeatedly made to feel that you don’t matter.
Finally, I’d recommend making more of an effort to befriend Jim’s wife. If nothing else, she could provide companionship for you on evenings when the guys are hanging out. But she could also prove to be a valuable ally. Although you have to be careful about this, once you’ve established a one-on-one friendship with her, you could try to find out how she feels about Jim always being over at your place. Does she wish she had more alone time with her man, too? If so, maybe you two could work together in establishing a little more couple-time in your four-way friendship.
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