Dear Dr. Love:About 18 months ago I began a relationship with a woman that has turned out to be the best relationship I’ve ever had. This woman is as close to my idea of a perfect life companion as I can imagine, and I dearly, truly love her with all my heart.Recently though, things haven’t been going so well. Before we got together I had few activities I did and friends that I saw on a regular basis. There were lots of things I wanted to do, but with nobody to share them with, and finances on the low side, I was reluctant to try.Since we have been together I have become involved in a lot of her activities as well as developed some on my own, and my financial situation has improved dramatically. Because of this, we see each other about 4 or 5 days a week. A lot of this time is spent ‘doing ‘whatever we get together to do, and there is very little quiet time where we can just talk and enjoy each other ‘s company.Along with this, I have been trying very hard (perhaps too hard) to try and please her. I usually defer to her interests, not because I want to please her, but because they usually are in line with my interests as well. She sees this as a submissive role on my part, and has said that, in a way, we have switched gender roles – i. e. she’s taking the masculine side while I ‘m taking the feminine side. I see it as an attempt to show her that our interests are similar, and that it’s more important for me to spend time with her than to ‘do’things together.The problem is, she says she needs more time to herself, that I seem to be moving too much into her life, and I need to be more assertive when it comes to her. I say, after 18 months together, we should be getting closer, not taking backward steps, and if I act too assertive I ‘m afraid that she ‘ll think I ‘m trying to dominate her. What can I do to fix this? I don’t want to lose the best woman that ‘s ever come into my life.Signed, In Love But Worried.
Your problem is called a molar conflict. Molar conflicts are caused when both partners don’t see eye-to-eye on the amount of intimacy ( closeness, togetherness) required in a relationship.Your idea of love sounds a lot like siamese twins. Your girlfriend, unlike you, needs more alone time and sees you as crowding her, being submissive, switching gender roles. What she is trying to tell you is that she needs more space. But, you are having trouble hearing and accepting this information. Why? You have a love philosophy that is very different from hers.Your philosphy is: ‘if we love each other then we are together most all the time. ‘You said in your letter that there were many things that you wanted to do before you met her, but you had no one to do them with. (It would be good for you to understand why you were and are reluctant to engage in solo activities. ) Because of your love philosophy, you are reading her need for space as a sign that the relationship is on the rocks or is ‘moving backward instead of forward.’If you choose to read her need for space as a sign that the relationship is drifting or that her love for you is not strong enough, then you are going to be very upset, which I see that you are. So what’s going wrong here is this: Given your philosophy, you interpret her need for space as a sign that you are failing her in some way. So, you ‘defer to her interests ‘in order to show your love and devotion. By deferring to her interests you are loving her according to your love philosophy (giving more of your time) but since she doesn’t share your philosophy, she only feels more crowded when you do this.The more she begs for her space, the more worried you become, and the more you try to cling to her in order to prove that you love her. In doing so, you turn her off more.I want you to know that many people can be totally in love and not need to be on top of each other (I don’t mean sexually) all the time. If you can understand this, then you will not feel as upset by her need for space. You also spoke about a fear that if you act too assertively that she will feel dominated by you. I think you are confusing assertion and domination.In a healthy relationship, both people assert their wishes ( state what they would like) and then negotiate a mutually satisfactory solution. To dominate is to impose your wishes. You seem to use the words assertive and dominate interchangeably. Can you see that they are totally different? Being so afraid that you will dominate her has got you overcompensating to the other extreme. Your passivity, submissiveness and deferring stems from your fear to dominate, I think. Can you also see that these two problems tie together?I have scratched the surface of this issue. If you want to resolve it, I suggest that you contact me in my private counseling section.