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Thread: How much time to spend together/apart in a relationship

  1. #1
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    How much time to spend together/apart in a relationship

    Hi everyone. This isnít a major problem at present, but Iím looking for some outside perspective. My BF (51, divorced, 2 kids) and I (43) donít live together, but we live in the same city and spend almost every night together. Itís been like this for about a year. As Iíve mentioned before, he travels somewhat regularly (not as often as he used to; at this point itís averaging about 5-7 days per month).

    From the point where he and I started getting serious, about a year and a half ago, I noticed we seemed to naturally have slightly different inclinations in terms of the amount of time we spend together, and how many things we do together.

    His natural inclination is to spend basically every night together, attend every event together, always socialize together. While Iíve been in serious relationships before, including being engaged, Iíve never never been in a situation with this high of an expectation of togetherness.

    In many ways itís really nice, and Iíve come to really appreciate the stability. Iíve gotten used to spending pretty much every night with him. And though my natural tendency is maybe to maintain a bit more distance and independence (maybe itís because of my attachment style; maybe itís a subconscious way to protect myself; maybe itís because Iíve never actually been married), Iím getting more used to doing things in his way, which is to say: though it was a bit out of my comfort zone at first, I find Iím now mostly happy in this rythm.

    Where I get hung up is, sometimes I just want to go out and have dinner with a girlfriend (or three) without him. Other times, I want to work late and then go to a late exercise class, and chill out by myself before seeing him. I find myself not doing these things because he feels strongly that as a ďcouple,Ē we should invite each other to everything we each do, and be available to each other every night at a reasonable hour.

    There is no hypocrisy in what he asks for. He invites me to everything. He would never go to a party, or a dinner, or a work event, a family gathering, or even dinner with his daughters, without inviting me and making me feel welcome. His feeling is that the natural course of life separates us sometimes anyways (for instance when he travels for work, or has a super early dinner with his daughters), but that we should spend the rest of our time together.

    When at times Iíve put up a bit of resistance, he expresses annoyance and hurt. I wouldnít say heís overtly controlling, but he feels he should be my "priority." He also says, ďI donít want to force you to spend time with me; I want you to want to.Ē

    I really value my relationship with him. The reality is, I'm instinctively a little bit resistant, in theory, to the idea of making any man my priority. It scares me! But he for all intents and purposes he is my priority. Maybe our perspectives are different because he's been married.

    I guess what Iím wondering is: (a) How to interpret our differences. Is he being controlling or is he just fostering a healthy, committed attachment, that Iím less used to? And (b) How to balance his requirements with mine. I find myself avoiding seeing friends without him in order to avoid creating tension, even though sometimes Iíd like to. I feel that I can be a better partner when I have more "me" time.

    One other piece of information, indirectly related to the above: When heís away (out of town) and Iím out with people -- or when rare circumstances dictate that weíre doing something separate for a night -- I do find him expecting a little bit more communication than I feel comfortable offering. It can almost feel like heís checking in on me. Whether Iím out at dinner with a girlfriend or more out-out at a party, etc., he gets upset if donít text him back quickly enough. I sense a little bit of jealousy. Generally what happens is that Iím focused on the person Iím with and Iíll accidentally miss a call or a text and not get back to him right away. He seems a little hypervigilant in these cases; he gets upset; and it stresses me out, because he has zero reason not to trust me. Itís been the cause of a few arguments.

  2. #2
    Platinum Member reinventmyself's Avatar
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    You just described my last relationship, that ultimately ended.

    I've done my fair share of dating and much like you I have learned that I have a strong need for individual, alone time.

    It's been an issue in my past relationships. I have learned to address it straight up in the beginning because I fear getting 6 months in and finding out that our needs are incompatible. It's perfectly fine if someone wants to spend every moment with their partner, but I wouldn't be the one for them.

    Unfortunately most people are not honest about their need for togetherness because often times it's driven by insecurity.

    My last bf traveled a lot. He insisted we Skype every night at 8. I learned any deviation from this time would cause conflict. I also soon learned that this Skype date was my leash. It's not easy to have a personal life if you have to be home every night before 8. I would meet up with a friend after work at 6:30 only to have to leave an hour later. It didn't help that he would comment that `women only go out with other women to troll for men' (uhg)

    I also didn't appreciate the unnecessary drama if I didn't get back to him immediately. All in all it felt offensive because I wasn't accustomed to someone challenging my integrity. He didn't have to come right and say it, but coming unhinged waiting for me to get back to him infers his lack of faith and trust in me. I didn't deserve that.

    I could on and on, but what I do see is you compromising to fit his needs. That's all well and good because relationships are about compromise. It's also about striking a balance that suits your needs too.

    This sounds as if this is starting to going sideways and it's breeding resentment. You are avoiding conflict to appease him and are no longer being yourself.

    This doesn't get better without resolving it. His insecurities are his to deal with, not yours. You better speak up, even if it's difficult.

  3. #3
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    I am married and need my space and alone time too. And time with others including long phone calls. Husband is fine with it and does the same. I truly believe a spouse or SO can be top priority without spending all free time together. And I think there are couples who spend all that time together out of habit not because they truly want to. Sure - we tell our partners if weíre not going to be available on a day we typically see each other - thatís just polite - but the response should be reasonable.

  4. #4
    Platinum Member LC8328's Avatar
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    Hi. There seems to be a few things going on here.

    As far as him wanting to spend every waking moment with you, more or less, that could be attributed to the fact that he was married before, or the fact that he's in his 50's and he doesn't want to miss a moment so to speak -or it could just be in his nature. It's hard to know.

    I feel what you're saying because I am the same way. I love my husband. But I absolutely have to have alone time or I'll go crazy.

    Speaking from experience, this must be sorted out now or it will cause more problems down the line. In answer to your questions, a) I do not think he is being controlling necessarily. He sounds like he's being pretty transparent with you, which is great. Now I don't know how his last marriage ended, if he couldn't trust her, etc, but it does seem like he has a little anxiety or at the very least, wanting to know where you are at all times.

    b) This is exactly it. How to balance and compromise. I feel it's best to be honest and tell him exactly what you told us: you can be a better partner when you have "you" time. He should know by now that you aren't a cheater (history has proven that) and that you are being very upfront when you say this..there aren't any hidden, malicious reasons.

    So...he wants you to make him a priority. Now I have some background questions for you. Have there been times when it could have appeared to him that you were not being attentive to him, or perhaps seemed to really want to go out with a girlfriend and brush him aside? It would be helpful if you two could have a heart to heart. Ask him if he has felt 'pushed aside' by you in the past and if so, ask him for specifics. Then you can talk about the incident(s) to his satisfaction.

    Now if you have not unknowingly done this..then perhaps he just really wants to make the most of your time together, which isn't a bad thing really, but everything, everything in life must be in moderation or it won't thrive. Tell him again about how you can be a better partner if you have alone time. Food for thought: By letting him know this, you are directly asking him for something that will greatly benefit your relationship in the long run and if he casts this thought aside, he would be loving you for himself, not loving you for you. Does that make sense? It's stubborn to not listen to the words and requests of the one you love. It doesn't mean he has to bend to your will, but he must be willing to compromise so you both can be happy, not just him. Your love language may not be his love language, and that's ok, as long as you both understand and are willing to put in the effort.

    The fact that you two have argued about you missing a text or call when you're out worries me. Whatever that wound is, whether it's directly or indirectly because of you or his ex or another factor, that wound has to be cut open and examined.

    EDIT: OK, I just went through your previous posts. I remember you. Your BF would fly first class and would take you along and sit you in coach. He is also the one who basically said that if he is paying for the trip then you have no right to complain about anything. That last one changes things a bit. Here we see a bit of a controlling nature rearing its ugly head. I mean, you two have been together a pretty long time so obviously you are committed to each other, but I have to ask, does he have other things in his personality that can be regarded as controlling?

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  6. #5
    Platinum Member reinventmyself's Avatar
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    In all honestly, YOU should be your priority. He, a very close second.

    You take his needs into consideration along with your own. There are times that you swing too far one way, but you should be met with good will and the pendulum swing just as far your way in return. In the end it should be equitable.

    You sometimes push yourself out of your comfort zone to meet his needs. You can expect him to be uncomfortable once in a while if it means meeting yours and at the same time capable of handling it. (much like you are now)

    Relationships are not about being a martyr (I know it's a strong word and not meant as an insult)

  7. #6
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    Dear LC8328,
    Thanks so much for your super thoughtful response. I really like what you have to say and want to be able to respond to it properly, but I'm running out right now and won't have time until tomorrow.

    I just wanted to clarify one thing quickly in the meantime -- regarding him flying first class and me sitting in coach in the past, while I do still have a few concerns about that, I did want to correct the facts: He NEVER said I didn't have a right to complain. He didn't say that because I never addressed the situation with him; I just flew coach. I now know more about how frequent flier programs work -- and what happened with that trip makes a bit more sense to me (although his decision doesn't thrill me). Other than that trip we've flown together a number of times (not on his usual airline) and we always both sit in coach together. That trip was on his regular business route. Anyway, just wanted to correct that to keep the facts accurate, and to hopefully keep the focus on the issue at hand. Apart from that, the short answer to your question about his controlling tendencies.... Yes. I would say he does have some mildly controlling tendencies. Not just with me, but in life. They generally appear benign, but they do exist, and they've been noted in his non-romantic relationships as well. I will think and explain more soon.

    Again, thanks!

  8. #7
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    I do not think it is healthy not to have a life outside of a partner, in fact, I would go nuts if I did not have time with my friends and interests. Your situation sounds a bit suffocating.

    He sounds manipulative, insecure and controlling, but you already know this about him. Stop enabling the behaviour.
    Last edited by Hollyj; 01-29-2019 at 09:10 PM.

  9. #8
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    My parents were married for 64 years. They both had interests outside of each other, as well as friend get togethers. They trusted one another and had a healthy loving relationship.

  10. #9
    Platinum Member LC8328's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by citrusgreen
    Dear LC8328,
    Thanks so much for your super thoughtful response. I really like what you have to say and want to be able to respond to it properly, but I'm running out right now and won't have time until tomorrow.

    I just wanted to clarify one thing quickly in the meantime -- regarding him flying first class and me sitting in coach in the past, while I do still have a few concerns about that, I did want to correct the facts: He NEVER said I didn't have a right to complain. He didn't say that because I never addressed the situation with him; I just flew coach. I now know more about how frequent flier programs work -- and what happened with that trip makes a bit more sense to me (although his decision doesn't thrill me). Other than that trip we've flown together a number of times (not on his usual airline) and we always both sit in coach together. That trip was on his regular business route. Anyway, just wanted to correct that to keep the facts accurate, and to hopefully keep the focus on the issue at hand. Apart from that, the short answer to your question about his controlling tendencies.... Yes. I would say he does have some mildly controlling tendencies. Not just with me, but in life. They generally appear benign, but they do exist, and they've been noted in his non-romantic relationships as well. I will think and explain more soon.

    Again, thanks!
    Ok, thanks. I'll wait to hear more from you.

    In the meantime, if it's true that his controlling issues are not terribly over-the-top, I stand by my original advice on this post which is to talk to him about compromise. Your feelings about wanting alone time are valid and not coming from a malicious place. I hope you are able to speak with him about this and that he is willing to put in the effort to make this work so that you are BOTH happy. Good luck.

  11. #10
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    What does he do if you go ahead and see your friends anyway?

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