Christ al-fucking-mighty, I spend every free, waking second with my BF and I need to find a way to deescalate this codependency. I didn’t realize how much of my time is dedicated to him until an upcoming business trip he can’t accompany me on made him act like a crazy person. Between complaints about how he wishes either he could go (to do what, watch TV in the hotel room?) or that I wasn’t going (oh sure, let me fuck up this opportunity so we can watch TV together at home) he nags about itinerary details my employer hasn’t even given me yet, acting like I’m withholding info.
We’ve dated for years and now live together. We have enjoyed a lot of great attached-at-the-hip times, but this has really shone a bright, unflattering light on how attached we are. Possibly because I’m annoyed about this I also suddenly feel a keen need for what I’ve heard other people refer to as “Alone Time,” and I don’t even begin to know how to ask for that.
I love my BF and I love being around him, but this attached-at-the-hip shit is just not sustainable. I don’t even know how to begin to talk about that without him hearing, “I hate being around you because you’re around too much, please learn to leave me alone,” which will hurt the living fuck out of his feelings. But, seriously, how does a girl tell the man she loves, “I hate being around you because you’re around too much, please learn to leave me alone?”
Detached At The Hip
Ah, the fine line between affection and codependency! You’re not the first person to realize you’re walking this line and you certainly won’t be the last. That’s pretty cold comfort, I’m sure; it doesn’t make it any less crazy high of a tight rope line, or that you want to get off of it less, well… dangerous. But I don’t think it has to be dangerous. I think some concentration and balance on your part can help you defy gravity here, and you and your BF can float safely to the ground.
I get the feeling you really love this guy and want to be with him, but you basically see a situation where you’re in danger of having to do more and more and more to prove to him you feel that way. “If you loved me you’d tell me all the details of your trip,” he seems to be saying, while you’re looking bewildered and responding, “But I don’t even have the details. And even if I did, how would that prove I love you? And when you realize that wouldn’t prove it, what would you ask for next? And after that? And after that…?” That’s such a shitty position to be in.
The hard part, too, is that your love for him probably helped him get to this point, where he expects you to deliver him from every kind of icky feeling ever. You were in the honeymoon phase, too. You were probably an eager part of Team Attached-At-The-Hip. But for a partnership to go forward, you have to be able to detach. You know that, and you need him to know it. You’re worried about both alone time and business trips, but if you can’t take a business trip without it being a fucking issue, you can kiss the very idea of alone time good-bye. So let’s start with addressing the business trip.
You’re probably a smart lady, so I’m sure you’re already aware of the fact that you should consider how he feels, and that maybe as your relationship goes through a perfectly normal maturation he’s feeling growing pains. Maybe he’s not ready for the honeymoon period to end. Who can blame him? – the honeymoon period is fucking great. Or maybe the last time a GF went on a business trip she never came back. Again, who can blame him? – that shit would suck and inform your behavior. You know his story and are obligated to apply it (that’s love!), though I imagine at least part of what’s happening is he doesn’t even realize what he’s doing or when he’s doing it, story or no. So you have to alert him without putting him on the defensive. I don’t envy you the task.
But all is not hopeless in Fuck-Codependence Land! Here it is, hopefully just in time for your business trip:
BITCHIE TENNENBAUM’S STEPS FOR HAVING A CRAPPY BUT NECESSARY TALK WITH YOUR S.O.:
- Invite him or her to express concern, as opposed to telling him or her what you think the concern is.
That’s it. That’s the whole list.
In your particular situation, I’d take a million deep breaths, make sure I was ready to stay calm (someone will have to steer this conversational ship if the seas get stormy), and say something like, “You seem really concerned about my trip itinerary. Are you? What’s up?”
I know that seems really simple and broad but I think that’s the way to initiate this conversation. He probably won’t blurt, “If I let you out of my sight for 48 hours you’ll run away!” or, “If I don’t know how you’re getting to and from your gig, bandits will surely steal you, for you are a pretty lady and helpless against their savagery!” But he’ll have to say something. I’d imagine something like, “I think it’s weird they haven’t given you details yet.” Or, “We haven’t been apart this long and I’m being weird.” Or, “I’m kind of upset you didn’t invite me.” Or, “No, no problem,” in which case I’d drop it until it comes up again, and then repeat the you seem concerned line.
Any of these will help you move to the next step, which is letting him know you love him and need him to know it in a way that doesn’t require you spend your every waking moment with him (bc that’s impossible, as evidenced by your business trip), or that you have the trip details under control because you have your shit together, or that you took that Krav class to better deal with bandits, or whatever. It probably won’t be a one-talk situation. But that simple question will help you figure out his angle and open a dialogue.
One thing I have to emphasize is that, as intimately as you know him and as much as you probably know exactly what his angle is (really hope it’s not bandits), you need to let him tell you. Why go through this step? Because your goal is just as much to communicate without hurting his feelings as it is to get some solo hours.
I have found, in my narrow scope of personal experience and observation, that one of the most ineffective ways of achieving these simultaneous goals is telling your S.O. what he or she thinks, and how his or her actions reflect this problematic line of thought. This is especially scary if you’re caught red handed, if someone really pegs you. It makes you feel invaded and exposed. It makes it feel like the mean and nasty parts of yourself, parts you probably think you are to some degree concealing, are printing out on a ticker tape for all the world to read. That’s a scary feeling and I have yet to find a person who enjoys it. It puts even the most docile and accommodating lamb on the defensive, because everyone is defensive when they’re put in GET OUT OF MY HEAD mode.
The moral of this story, Detached, is that if this Dudebro wants a longstanding partnership he’ll at least be willing to discuss what boundaries are necessary. The tricky part is starting that conversation, which I have every confidence you can do.
Don’t Be Bitchy,
If you’d like some advice from Bitchie, e-mail your question to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may just be featured in Porch Swing!