Q: I've been dating my boyfriend for about five months and we're in our mid-20s. He's fun, intelligent, and we have a lot in common as far as interests and worldview go. He's traveled and has a lot of friends in different cities.
Before we started dating, we used to email each other all day from work, asking questions about politics and books and movies. Though I've had two serious relationships, he's only had short relationships.
The truth is, he wants/needs a lot more of my time than I'm comfortable giving him. After we got together, in the bliss of the first month or two, we were inseparable, staying at each other's places and spending all our time together instead of setting aside certain evenings for dates. We said "I love you" mutually, but very quickly.
Now I feel this intense anxiety when I ask for what I consider to be normal things, like a couple nights a week where I can just come home, eat whatever, and watch Netflix in my pajamas. It's not about seeing other people, I just want time to go to the library and take classes and go to museums by myself. I feel happy and calm most of the time when we're together, but I have these weekly freak-outs where I feel overwhelmed because I haven't had time to do laundry, or go grocery shopping, or do a face mask and paint my toes. He's always, always around.
I brought this up with him and he was accommodating and lovely, saying he understood and didn't want to smother me. The fact still remains that it's been five months and he still doesn't need "me time." We spent occasional nights apart only because I want to, and he says things like "I don't feel right when you're not with me," and "I'm more myself around you." I worry that he doesn't have friends or a life aside from our new relationship, but I don't want to keep bringing it up and making him feel bad about himself. How can I suggest we have separate interests without making it sound like "I need space"?
Wanting a life away from him makes me feel guilty, and I know that's not right at all. I'm starting to think, "What if this means he loves me more than I love him?"
– I love you, but I love other stuff too, MA
A: You don't want a life away from him, you just want a life. Most people need alone time, even if they're living with a significant other. Space is healthy.
I'm happy to hear that your boyfriend is accommodating and understanding, but I don't like that he tells you he "doesn't feel right" when you're not with him. That's a big a yellow flag. Sure, he's telling you to go have fun on your own, but he's also implying you're leaving him in a bad place. I understand that you don't want to keep bringing it up, but you should ask him what he means when he says that. And you should tell him how it feels to hear it. He should be comfortable on his own. Having you there should be a bonus, not a necessity.
I also want you to think about your time together and whether it's still fun and interesting. If it is, that's fantastic and makes me feel better about the alone time problem. But if you find that you're bored, and that it's really just you talking to him about your interesting life, please think about what you need in a partner. If this guy is more of a witness than a participant, he might not be right for you.
You can keep this going for now, but pay attention to your feelings, especially that anxiety. And continue to talk. That's part of the process.
Readers? Is he right for her? Is this just about getting used to the relationship? Is he just in the honeymoon phase? Does she have to be with someone who also needs alone time? Help.
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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.