Q: Hi Meredith,
I am writing to you in the throes of what I would consider to be a very upsetting fight with my boyfriend.
Boyfriend and I have been together for almost three years now, and overall we have a wonderful relationship. I love him more than I could ever explain, and I believe that he loves me dearly as well. We share responsibilities, emotions, and a wonderful life together. So, as a preface, this is most certainly not a "should we break up?" letter. I am way too lucky to have him in my life. For relevant background, we are both mid-20s, working professionals, and moved in together in 2010.
Our fight started when it occurred to me that he never invites me out with his friends. Over the past few years, I've met and hung out with his friends on multiple occasions and I've always had a lot of fun. They're a good bunch and easy to let loose with. Plus, I love seeing the fun, silly side of my boyfriend. He’s silly with me at home, but rarely when we go out. So seeing him like that with his friends is a treat.
But since we moved in together and started our crazy full-time jobs, he has never once invited me to hang out with him and his friends at all. And I used to go out with them two to three times a week. For a while, I had thought that they were my friends too but now I realize that was a naive assumption. We're both independent, so maybe once or twice a week we go out separately with our respective crew (he doesn't like my friends all that much). So when I brought up my observation that I'm never invited to the party anymore, I was shocked at my boyfriend's uncharacteristically angry response. "I only have one day a week with my friends! Why would you try to take that away from me!" he instantly snaps. He's usually so calm that I’m taken aback.
I'm crushed. I can't believe my observation warrants such an angry emotional response. It's heartbreaking to me that the thought of me hanging out with him and his friends is so offensive. His other friends' girlfriends go out with him all the time and I'm never invited. I explained that I would never encroach on that time every week, but once in a blue moon it would make me feel nice if I was included. We ended up fighting the whole night about it and never getting to a place that made me feel okay. He invalidated my feelings a lot and told me I was being ridiculous, which is really hurtful and again, not like him.
I feel shattered. I think this says a lot about how he sees me. Sucker-of-fun, enemy-of-happiness. And the kind of girl who would invite herself out with him every week regardless of how he feels. That’s not who I am; our independence is and always has been important to me.
Meredith, how do I make him understand that I just want to celebrate that part of his life with him -- occasionally? Why am I being shut out? Was it so wrong of me to bring this up? How do I get over this awful feeling? I feel like I'm the last kid who gets picked in dodgeball. The nerd who never gets invited to the party.
– Rejected and Dejected, Needham
A: You weren't wrong to bring this up, RAD, and you have every right to feel left out. In fact, I feel left out on your behalf.
Your boyfriend is in the wrong here. You're not looking to be inseparable. You just want to hang out in a group sometimes.
That said, I don't think your boyfriend is being malicious. One of the things that no one ever tells you about cohabitation is that it takes a long time to adjust. My guess is that your boyfriend is still figuring out how to balance his social life and work now that he lives with you. With you there all of the time, how is he supposed to maintain his independence? How is he supposed to find time to be alone? It takes more than a year to figure it out.
My advice: let him cool off from the fight. When he does, he'll admit that your once-in-a-blue-moon request is a fair one -- and a fun one. Then let him know that if he needs more space in this living arrangement, he should take it. Maybe if he has more alone time during the week, he'll be more likely to want you around when he's out with his friends.
It'll help to let him know that he's not crazy or insensitive for experiencing some not-always-positive side effects from the move-in. Just tell him that you're experiencing them, too. You're trying to figure out your new roles. That's a big thing.
Readers? Is this about him adjusting to the living situation? Should she be offended that he hasn't invited her out with his friends? What should be the compromise here? Is there a bigger problem? Discuss.
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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.