Q: I'm an artist in a relationship with a very linear-thinking man. I'm something of a tree-hugging hippy, while he's extremely technically minded, logically based, and acts more like a computer than a person sometimes. He's sort of a grumpy-old-man Spock in a 20-something's body. We're both very introverted.
My boyfriend is a very sweet man and he always means well, but he handles our relationship clumsily. Our sex life is awkward and frequently one-sided (though in his defense, he really tries). He doesn't really understand how my brain works or why I'm such an emotional creature. He doesn't catch unspoken signals or body-language AT ALL, which is a huge problem for me.
We've been together for about 3 years. Things started going downhill for us as we neared our second anniversary.
My boyfriend was moving back to my city after living about an hour away for the duration of the relationship up to that point. I was excited to have him closer and suggested that we move in together since we were spending all our free time at each other's houses already. I thought we were ready, especially after almost 2 years. He balked and made excuses for why we couldn't do it, citing money, time, parking, etc. I eventually realized that he just didn't want to but was afraid to tell me so, so I backed off and tried not to take it personally.
That lasted for about 6 months, but I eventually got tired of spending all my time at his new place and still paying rent at my house (and never seeing my cat), so I offered him a choice: either I move in or I stop coming over more than once a week. Eventually, he agreed to my moving in.
Living together in a one-bedroom apartment only made things worse. (I will go ahead and admit here that I was probably wrong about us being able to live together in a 600-square-foot apartment with a cat and a ton of stuff crammed into it for very long.)
We bickered a lot and started to disconnect from each other. After a while, I realized that I relished times when he was out of the house and I didn't have to interact with him. I started resenting him touching me all the time and pushed him away when he tried to snuggle or kiss me.
My boyfriend recently bought a house in a nice neighborhood not far from where our apartment was. He already wanted to buy a house in the area and we REALLY needed to live somewhere with more breathing room.
We moved into it in the spring and things have become less tense, but now they just feel empty. I've kept busy fixing up the house, painting, etc., but I feel like real damage was done to the relationship during those very compressed months, and I have no idea how to fix it.
We've discussed the problems and we've tried very hard to bridge the gaps and devise strategies to connect again, but nothing works. I feel like there's a big sheet of Plexiglass between us at all times. I can see him, but I can't really reach him. More than that, I've started to question if I WANT to reach him. We never had a lot in common, and lately we have even less.
My boyfriend is a good person and I don't want either of us to suffer if we don't have to. I know he'd be upset if I left him, but I feel like I'm unintentionally leading him on, and I know he could find someone better suited to him than I am. Whether or not he'd actually look for someone ... I have no idea. I pursued him when our relationship began, and I am the only woman he's ever dated long term.
My question boils down to this: Is there anything we can do to bridge this gap, or is it time to cut our collective losses and part ways?
Please help me out. I don't want either of us to get hurt.
– CatLady, Michigan
A: Get out, CatLady. You don't want to be with him anymore. You don't want to touch him anymore. You're sticking around because you feel guilty, but you just can't prevent the hurt. It's unavoidable.
You're strong enough for a fresh start. So is he. You say that he can't perceive body language and that he doesn't understand your brain, but he obviously knows that something is missing. He seems to understand that the love is gone. You can't protect him from this.
You've tried so hard, but the Plexiglass sounds permanent. And for the record, based on what you've told us, this relationship was pretty doomed even before you moved into the small place. You don't communicate well and he's just not what you want for the future. You need so much more.
I feel claustrophobic just reading about the atmosphere in your house. Free yourself, please. You're allowed.
Readers? Is she asking for too much? Was it the small apartment that killed the relationship? Why didn't he want to move in to begin with? Is there anything to save here? How should she tell him? 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 new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.