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She calls the shots

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  September 22, 2010 09:00 AM

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Twitter people will notice that I've started posting a Love Letters song of the day. Mainly because I don't do anything interesting on Twitter, and I sort of always have a Love Letters-ish song in my head. Feel free to bother me on Twitter to recommend a song of the day. If you don't, it's going to be a lot of George Michael. And it will be your fault. Local musicians -- bring it on.

Chat at 1.

Q: Hi Meredith,

Here is a question that will probably get some ire from those looking for a loyal partner. I have been with my girlfriend for the past five years (since the end of college). I trust her in every way. We get along really well, yet I worry that my passive personality is the big reason we've made it so far.

She is an only child and she is used to getting her way most of the time. We are both very close to our families, and I see that her parents still coddle her in certain ways. And even though she feels that we have a 50/50 relationship, we don't (which I'm sure is related to her relationship with her parents). Part of this is my own doing -- at the beginning of the relationship I didn't stand up for what I wanted and let her get her way because I was too concerned with making her happy. This passiveness has led me to have very few friends. We pretty much spend all of our time together. I know I need to make an honest effort to expand my social circle, but I fear that replacing time with her on the weekends with other activities will not go over well with her.

We've talked about this issue over the past few years, but nothing has changed. I can't entirely blame her since we are just used to the way we've done things for the past five years, and I only reinforce this at times to keep the peace between us. I've accepted it as the "way things are," but I don't know if I could handle this for the rest of my life.

She has told me numerous times within the past year that she wants to marry me but that there's no rush. I can envision her being my wife at times, but there are times when I don't feel "it" and that scares me.

Since we do almost everything together, if I were to break things off, I would pretty much have nothing in terms of a social life since I have an almost nonexistent social life outside of her. She is pretty much my life outside of my family and work, so in a way, I wouldn't just be moving on from her, but pretty much moving on from my way of life for the past five years.

Am I crazy to consider giving up on a relationship with a woman who honestly loves me, relates to me, and wants to spend the rest of her life with me, even though I have a gut feeling that things could feel more 50/50 with someone else?

– Confused, Boston

A: I find it fascinating, Confused, that you thought your letter would anger readers. It's not an ire-producing letter. That comment is just more evidence of your fear of honesty. You must work on your ability to disclose. As you've learned, keeping your wants to yourself doesn't help anyone.

My advice is to sign up for some specific weekly activities -- recreational sports, a cooking class, or maybe some sort of book club. If you don't have a hobby that requires you to mingle with other people at a specific time, that socializing won't happen. An organized activity will allow you to schmooze. It will also help you gauge whether your girlfriend will allow for extracurriculars. If she reacts negatively to something as simple as a softball league, well, you have cause for concern.

It's very difficult to change the power structure in a relationship, but it's possible. The change has to come from you. You have to be assertive (not passive-aggressive!). You have to be honest. You also have to be empathetic about the fact that after five years, you're changing the rules.

Some readers are going to say that this relationship is doomed, but I'm not so sure. As you said, you've enabled this behavior. "I fear that replacing time with her on the weekends with other activities will not go over well with her." You fear her reaction -- but you don't know what it will be. Give her some credit. Talk to her (again) about your concerns. Then take action. And whenever you get scared of speaking your mind, remember why you're doing it. It's the best thing for both of you. It's about figuring out what will make you happy for the rest of your life.

Readers? Will this relationship ever be 50-50? How can the letter writer lean to speak up? Is the girlfriend taking advantage of the passive tendencies? What's going on here? Talk.

– Meredith

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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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