My Girlfriend Never Makes Time For Me and Keeps Me a Secret. Is My Relationship Doomed?

So I’m in a pretty new relationship with my girlfriend, AJ. We’ve been dating since June, but I really REALLY like her. We always have a great time together whenever we’re together and I could really see a future here. There are a few problems, though.

First, she’s ALWAYS busy. Like always. We’re both in school so I kind of understand having too much homework to hang out, but every time we make ANY plan at all, she cancels last minute or shows up but can only stay like 20 minutes. Her birthday was last week and I’ve been planning it for a month and she could only stay about 90 minutes. It just kind of hurt. I just don’t understand why we can’t meet up at a coffee shop and do homework together sometimes. We literally live on the same street in different dorms–you’d think I would see her all the time, but I don’t.

Secondly, she hasn’t come out to anybody, including her closest friends. I understand not wanting to tell her family yet; I’m the first girl she’s dated so that’s going to come down the line if we end up together, but I cringe every time I’m introduced to her other friends as “a classmate”. When I bring it up, she tells me she’ll tell them when she’s ready and gets snippy, so then I feel bad for pressuring her.

And third, she makes me feel TERRIBLE. Like all the time. And I don’t know if I’m reading situations wrong and overthinking it, but if I text her too often she snaps at me that I’m pressuring her too much to talk when she’s busy, even if I’m just asking how her day is. I find myself asking my friends about every text I get from her because she’s often extremely cryptic, and I feel like that’s a bad thing.

I like to make sure our plans are solidified when we make them a few hours before but that has occasionally gotten me a snappy “why don’t you trust that I’ll show up?” or a “forget it, if you’re going to be micromanaging me, I don’t want to hang out tonight”.

AGAIN, I want to reiterate that when we are physically IN PERSON, none of this is like this!!! We click, we laugh, we’re really cuddly and chatty and we have talked about really emotional and personal things. I feel like I really really know her, but sometimes I only feel like she wants me to display that I know her when we’re alone.

Not sure what to do. Is my relationship doomed?

Xoxo,

Tired of “I’m Busy”

Dear Tired of “I’m Busy,”

Generally, when I give relationship advice, I don’t like to say definitively whether or not I think two people should be together. A single letter to me is only a snapshot of a relationship, and there is no way for me to know everything that is going on behind closed doors. Something that sounds troubling could just be something two people have to work through with open communication, so most of the time, I like to remain neutral. In your case, however, I need to make an exception. I think you need to end things with her.

When you really like someone, it’s easy to overlook certain bad behaviors. What you describe in your letter are not just slightly annoying habits like forgetting to text back occasionally or never refilling the Brita. Her behavior is at best, immature, and at worst, manipulative and abusive. Let me ask you these questions:

  • Do you sometimes feel like you are walking on eggshells around her?
  • Are you often very confused about where you stand with her?
  • Does it feel like you can’t do anything right?
  • Do you feel like she is ashamed of you?
  • Does it feel like she is “in charge” in the relationship and everything needs to be catered to her needs and schedule?
  • Do you feel she is willing to put any effort towards preserving your relationship or are you doing the lion’s share of the emotional labor?
  • Does it sometimes feel like you are in a relationship with two different people: one who cares for and respects you, and one who belittles and devalues you?

If you can relate to any of these, your relationship is unhealthy. A healthy relationship means that you show each other respect, make compromises, and make time for each other. Healthy partnerships do not involve being passive aggressive, snippy, stingy with your time, or secretive. A good partner appreciates it when you make an effort to show you care like you did with her birthday, and they don’t treat you like they are doing you some big favor by making a small window of time for you. We’re all busy, but when you care about someone, you make time for them, especially when they are allegedly your girlfriend. You should not feel like you are in a relationship with an enigma where, if only you could just figure out how to please her, then everything would be perfect. I am telling you now that you could give her the moon, and she would still find something wrong with it. People who use manipulative tactics like refusing to hang out with you because you simply ask them to respect your time are not the type of people who can be pleased. She expects you to read her mind and follow some unwritten code of conduct, and if you don’t live up to her expectations, she gets pissy and won’t see you. Of course you feel terrible; this person means the world to you, and she treats you like you’re an option, not a priority. In the right relationship, you feel better about yourself, not worse. They lift you up, not tear you down.

In the right relationship, you feel better about yourself, not worse. They lift you up, not tear you down.

When and how to come out is a personal choice that you are right to respect. But any relationship where there is an attraction and connection between two individuals can thrive when it exists in a bubble. If you are only ever “together” when you are alone, you aren’t truly together. Part of being in a relationship is sharing each other’s lives, meeting each other’s friends and family, and spending time together out in the world. To truly know someone, you have to see all the parts of them, not just the 20 minute highlights reel they give you. Your relationship cannot progress forward if all you ever do with her is hang out in private on her schedule. It is suspicious to me that she is hiding such a huge part of herself from even her closest friends, especially because she introduces you as her “classmate” instead of, at the very least, her friend. Perhaps she is genuinely not ready to come out, and that’s okay; she will have to get there on her own time. But if you are going to date someone who cannot tell her friends and family about you, it’s only going to go so far, particularly when they refuse to even talk to you about it. You know who you are and you’re not hiding it which is the most profoundly brave thing you can do in this world, so you should be able to be out and proud about who you date. Being with someone who wants you to hide you is only causing you to feel ashamed, and someone who so clearly has tons of love to give deserves to give it to someone who truly appreciates it and openly returns the favor.

You’re only at the beginning of your adult life, and there are many wonderful women out there who would be happy to make time for a loving partner in the light of day and with the support of their inner circle. You may have fun with AJ when you’re alone, but if she is constantly keeping you unsure of where you stand and won’t bring your relationship out to at least her closest friends, it’s time to move on. You deserve better. Do yourself a kindness and say, to paraphrase Beyonce, “Girl, BYE.”

XOXO,
Ginzo

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Help! He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Dear Ginzo,

I am having some guy trouble. The guy I’ve been seeing for the last 10 months is a little hard to read. I feel like we’re in a relationship because we act like we’re together but he has said in the past (at the very beginning) that he doesn’t want a relationship. He has said that we are enjoying each other’s company and are having fun. I know he’s been burned in the past and is scared to go into a serious relationship. Our feelings are out on the table. We’ve said I love you and have gotten mushy with each other. I have spent time with his family and for all I know they think I’m his girlfriend.

The troubling part is that he has his off days. Days where he seems to not want to talk to me, or he’s being very distant (physically and emotionally). Every time I try to talk to him about it, he apologizes and reassures me that everything is fine. I’m the kind to overshare my feelings and he’s the kind to be more reserved. So what should I do? Should I try to push him to talk more? Should I back off? Is this whole thing just doomed from the get go?

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Dear He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not,

The struggle to define relationships these days is real. There are more and more situations in which you’re “talking to” or “hanging out with” someone without a label. Knowing what role we play in a person’s life can be difficult because we are more free to casually date than ever. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, because at least we don’t have to marry the first person who looks our way anymore. It’s a social climate in which it is much easier to explore our identities and sexualities and what truly makes us happy, whether that is being in a relationship with one person, several people, or no one at all. However, it does mean that you can see someone for 10 months, tell each other “I love you,” and meet his family, and still not be entirely sure what is going on.

Labels are not as important as the relationship behind them, but they serve a purpose. When things are defined, it is easier to trust your partner. You know you are monogamous (or have agreed upon some sort of mutually respectful arrangement otherwise) and you know they aren’t just going to disappear one day. It is a deeper commitment that feels like a safety net.

But again, a label is not nearly the most important or best part of being in a relationship, and if it is for you, you are in it for the wrong reasons. There are plenty of unhealthy relationships that have included even more serious labels, such as “spouse,” but are only partnerships in name.

Put the “Are we in a relationship?” question aside. Does this person respect you? Does he make you feel good about yourself? Forget about what he has or hasn’t said; what do his actions say about how he feels about you? I ask you these things because it can be easy to get caught up in the label without seriously considering whether you really want to be with this person or not. If it is an otherwise healthy relationship that makes you happy but you are just stressed about where you stand, then it’s important to talk to him about this.

I wouldn’t necessarily interpret the fact he pulls away sometimes to be a bad thing. Personally, I am a naturally more reserved person, and there are times when I just need my space. It doesn’t mean the other person has done anything wrong, but solitude and silence are very important to me, and there are some things that I either can’t or don’t want to talk to other people about. I need the people who love me to allow me that space, but this isn’t always easy to communicate, particularly with my more extroverted, emotionally expressive loved ones. Maybe the guy you’re seeing is the same way.

Also keep in mind that no one is naturally good at sharing their feelings. It takes practice, particularly in the context of a romantic relationship, and how fluent you are in expressing your feelings has a lot to do with the environment you grew up in, as well as the people you surround yourself with. Men in particular are socialized not to express their emotions, meaning that many grow up without the vocabulary to talk about what is going on inside. It sounds like you have different communication styles, which does not mean that it won’t work out; it just means that you will have to meet each other where you respectively are. This is a normal part of the work that goes into relationships, and if you want to continue being with him, it will be an ongoing project for as long as you’re together.

As to the DTR conversation: In the beginning, he said he didn’t want a serious relationship, but that was 10 months ago now. A lot has changed since that initial conversation, and it sounds like it is time to check in again and see how you are both feeling about it. Sitting him down to have “a talk” may make it too intimidating for someone who is not eager to verbalize their feelings. Chances are, there will be a natural way to bring it up in conversation where you don’t have to make a big deal about it, taking the pressure off of the both of you. Be honest about how you feel, and give him the space to follow suit. Understand that if he has been seriously burned as you said, he may still need more time. The important thing to keep in mind here is to not take it personally. Let him own his feelings, own yours, and try to be as nonjudgmental as possible. This will go a long way towards creating a space in the future where you both can communicate with each other openly.

At the end of the day, relationships require a lot of emotional work, labeled or not. If this person is worth it, pour love and energy and care into understanding what is going on beneath the surface. If he’s not, then now you know what you want out of future relationships, and that is something that is valuable in its own right. Best of luck!

XOXO,
Ginzo

How Do I Break Up With Someone?

Dear Ginzo,

I’ve never broken up with someone before but I have to now. In my previous relationships the other person always ended it. A few times I have wanted to get out too but haven’t had the courage to actually break up with them. I’m embarrassed to admit that I will just kinda pull away until they finally end it or get the hint and we just stop talking. I recently realized this about myself and decided that if I was ever unhappy in a relationship again, I would break up with them instead of my usual cowardly move. But now that I have been seeing this person for a few months, I realized that we just don’t have that much in common and I don’t see myself with them long term. But I’m scared. I really don’t want to hurt their feelings because I think they’re great, just not right for me. I am also debating my method. When I told one friend I was just going to text my soon-to-be-ex and get it over with, she yelled at me. Then I talked to another friend about it and she says she would actually PREFER to be broken up with over text. Wtf? What do I do now? HELP!

Never the Dumper, Always The Dumpee

Dear Never the Dumper, Always The Dumpee,

First of all, hats off for recognizing this about yourself and deciding to make a change. In a world where “ghosting” has become a common experience in the world of dating, it’s good to hear that you’re taking the road of emotional maturity.

I have had the discussion, “Is there really a good way to breakup with someone?” many a time, often when someone brings up that episode of Sex in the City when Berger broke up with Carrie on a post-it note (and I hate Carrie Bradshaw but yeah, that’s a terrible way to breakup with someone). I think there is a right way to breakup with someone, to a point. Either way, you are ending the relationship, and regardless of the circumstances, it can hurt. Rejection sucks and change is hard to accept. But there is definitely a way to break up with a person that shows them respect and allows you to be both honest about your feelings and sensitive to theirs. When it comes to your situation, it sounds like it is simply a matter of lack of chemistry. They have done you no wrong; it just isn’t going to work out. In this case, being too specific only serves to hurt their feelings. For example, being like, “Well, I think you’re really great, but your porcelain doll collection is off-putting and I can’t see myself being down to go to any of those conventions you attend” is just going to hurt their feelings. You don’t have to lie, but a simple, “The chemistry is just not there for me” should suffice. Also, none of this, “Well, I am just not ready for a relationship right now” stuff because that only serves to lead them on. Don’t leave a door open for them that you know is shut for you.

As far as over text v. in-person debate goes, I actually don’t think there is anything wrong with breaking up with someone over text message. It’s really all about context. Someone with whom you were making long-term plans and have been seeing for over a year? Yeah, you sure as shit better not break up with them over text. Someone you have dated for a couple of months and had maybe 5 dates with? Eh, you might save them the gas money and their dignity by letting them read your breakup texts swaddled in a nest of blankets and sadness. Today, text is the primary form of communication for many relationships, romantic or otherwise, and it is in the process of changing the etiquette of a lot of social situations, hence your two friends’ wildly different opinions on the subject.

If you are still not sure which is the best route, I would suggest you decide which way based on their preferred method of communication. Are they more verbal (i.e. do they prefer phone calls over texting, do they express affection out loud)? Or are they more inclined to express their feelings non-verbally (i.e. over text, through body language), in which case, an in-person breakup may be way more difficult for them to handle? Hopefully after dating for a couple of months, you have some insight into their communication style. Reflect on them as a person and this will guide you in the direction of a breakup that’s respectful.

Best of luck breaking things off, and give yourself a good pat on the back for being an emotionally intelligent human.

Love,
Ginzo