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Rafael M.T.Therapist
Rafael M.T.Therapist, Psychotherapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 3189
Experience:  MHT-MHRS-MS-MA Integral Psychotherapist & Life Coach
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Hello! Im a 30 year old guy who has been dating a 24 year

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Hello!

I'm a 30 year old guy who has been dating a 24 year old girl for the past 3.5 months. We met in the office during her first few weeks at a new job and really hit it off. After a few weeks of talking a lot and going on a few dates we started seeing each other very regularly and she was staying over at my apartment more often than not. We've kept the relationship pretty quite from colleagues since she didn't want to feel uncomfortable at her new job.

I've taken her home to meet my family on a couple occasions and was invited to her house to go to dinner and stay over to celebrate her mother's birthday with her and both her parents. The weekend went as well as I could have hoped and she said that her mom really liked me, which is a first for anyone she's brought home.

About 10 days ago she went to FL with her mother to visit her grandmother. I offered to watch her dog while she was away and we talked everyday. Things couldn't have been better in my opinion. She got home last Monday night and we spent the evening together, which also went great. However when Tues AM rolled around, she started being more standoffish. At this point she had spent 5 days in FL and the previous 7 days straight with me and hadn't seen her friends much over the past month.

She told me that she wanted more space for her friends and balance in her life, which I completely support. The hard part has been that while asking for this space she has also been showing me much less affection and I don't know what to do any longer. We've hung out a couple times in the past week but she hasn't wanted to kiss me or have any physical contact besides cuddling for a movie.

We've talked a couple times and she's told me that she doesn't feel like she's ready for anything more at this point, but wants to still hang out and see if she thinks we get back to a point where she's comfortable being more than 'friends'. I've told her how that I really like her and don't want her to push me away, but feel very conflicted on the best way to communicate with her and prevent any further pushback without freaking her out…

Her change in attitude and affection towards me has been such as unexpected 180 degree change that I'm hurt and confused, but don't want those feelings to cloud my judgement and respond in a way that will push her away further…. should I be supportive of the space and continue hanging out casually and act as though it isn't a big deal? It's hard to envision being emotionally healthy in taking this route for an extended period of time….

I'm confused and want back what we had just last week and am afraid i'll mess things up further…. please help :/

Thanks,
C
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Rafael M.T.Therapist replied 1 year ago.

Rafael M.T.Therapist : Hello, I am Rafael. Thanks for asking your question - I'm here to support you. (Information posted here is not private or confidential but public).
Rafael M.T.Therapist : |am sorry to know about your very frustrating situation.
Rafael M.T.Therapist : Unhappily as long as she does not choose to be truly open and honest towards you about her dramatic changes about you and the relationship, it would be unrealistic to trust her and hope for things to evolve just fine with time, while you repress your feelings and shock from her decision to end what you just started to develop together.
Customer: thanks, XXXXX XXXXX your thoughts
Customer: makes sense but she still wants to hang out, which is confusing
Rafael M.T.Therapist : Pushing her would not help, once no healthy and fulfilling relationship could grow without reciprocal respect, affection, commitment and support. She is directly telling you that she does not want to continue the relationship the way it's been, and there is nothing you could do about that. This has been a very young relationship, so there is still a lot you do not know about her, and that partially explain these challenging circumstances.
Rafael M.T.Therapist : I see, and that's why you need to be truthful with yourself and define if you truly feel able and willing to afford such friendship or not.
Rafael M.T.Therapist : She has set her boundaries and limits and you need to do the same in consistency with what you feel, want and are willing to afford in this situation.
Customer: Thanks for your feedback. I know that she's been getting a lot of grief from her friends about not being around lately, which is def in-part the reason for her sudden change in behavior. We had been hanging out on a daily basis for a couple months straight, so part of me feels like she's afraid of the relationship continuing to get more serious and distancing herself from her friends. Part of me feels like I should be supportive and not close the door, while continuing to act confident with the situation while she gets more balance back in her personal life
Rafael M.T.Therapist : I totally support your plan, as long as you feel comfortable, capable and willing to do that, it seems absolutely worthy to try it.
Rafael M.T.Therapist : That way you would find out in the process if this work, how honest she happens to be and if you truly could find a good balance together, based on your compatibility around personalities, core values and expectations, and what you learn from each other during this new phase
Customer: right on, makes sense...
Rafael M.T.Therapist : Many people can do react that way when having issues from past relationships leading them to fear a similar scenario could develop in their present experiences. This is why, being empathic and patient could be necessary, but just do not forget to be always truthful towards yourself, about what you want and can afford, and honest towards her, for you to know if this could truly evolve into soemthing strong and more fulfilling with time or not.
Rafael M.T.Therapist : Set a period of time reasonable for you to wait and see how things evolve, then you would reassess the situation and make necessary adjustments based on your experiences and what you want at that time for you.
Customer: thanks, XXXXX XXXXX the help
Customer: it's hard, but worth a shot for sure
Customer: sorry for the limited replies, im on a customer call right now and its hard to multi-task
Rafael M.T.Therapist : No problem, I do understand.
Rafael M.T.Therapist : Please feel free to reply as necessary for further clarification. I am here to support you. Thank you for your trust.
Rafael M.T.Therapist, Psychotherapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 3189
Experience: MHT-MHRS-MS-MA Integral Psychotherapist & Life Coach
Rafael M.T.Therapist and other Relationship Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 1 year ago.

I think Raphael has been very helpful, but I'd like to add a little, and see where my own insights lead. I've studed a couple thousand relationship narratives, written a textbook on love relationships in which I developed a stage model based on research, and done couples therapy for 40 years (but part time).

 

1. 3-4 months is the normal time for casual relationships to either end or become serious.

 

2. Backing off to spend more time with her friends is a very normal reaction, esp if your frequency of time together had been increasing up to her visit in FL. Furthermore, spending time away often leads to a realization that something's not right with the way one's life is going--tho that doesn't mean that one can discover a better way to balance activities. Needing Space is a very important theme for women in relationships, because they were not brought up with a realization that they would need time to themselves even if they were moving along well in a relationship that looks very good for eventual marriage. Women have typically learned that willingly absenting themselves from their boyfriend or husband is something they should feel bad about, and blame themselves for--so when they feel the need to get more right to alone time and time with other people, they may look for an excuse to make it happen, or actually get trapped inside between their guilt&insecurities about denying intimacy to their BF or husband and their feeling cramped and stifled (because in her case she suddenly got 5 days with NO expectation that she had to be with you--and suddenly discovered how good that felt, and how relieving). And between those two negative emotional states, her excitement & enjoyment of you and your love got all muddied up.

 

So she appears to be opting for "let's go back to casual" except that nowadays there's a new category for that called "friends." And you can feel that "friends" is living a LIE: It's her solution to an intolerable emotional snarl inside of herself.

 

Now you're 30, and perhaps quite ready to go all the way to the altar, because the age 30 transition typically involves discovering and deciding what to do that is worth getting older from now on--called "getting serious" and committing to middle adulthood. Hopefully you're committed or now committing to a career that you're willing to sacrifice for, and your attitude toward your GF is that you're willing to sacrifice some of your desires IF you think she's going to come around to continuing the deepening of your relationship--and that DEEPENING has just BARELY BEGUN.

 

So I suggest you take stock of where you are in life and where you're going (or hope to be going) in the next few years. And do the same about her. Are you getting ready for marriage and parenthood? Is SHE? If she's not a college grad and you are, then she might be more eager to marry a good man (that looks good to her family) than if she IS a college grad and is working and has career goals of her own.

 

Just from what you've written so far, the key here is what your trajectories with regard to marriage are at this time. For 24 is pretty young for an educated woman to be heading for marriage unless she has NO professional aspirations beyond where she is now, but 30 is on target for a man, whether college educated and professional or more trade-educated.

 

The "space" attitude is quite different for men too, because we're not usually even aware that "space" is a need that we have. For normally we'll do ANYTHING that seems to be in the interest of furthering our career without even a pause to wonder if our GF or wife would like losing that time with us or not. And if you've outgrown any previous inclination to adventuring (sports, outdoorsmanship, travel, etc.) and/or drinking&partying with "the buddies," then you don't have the competing buddy-networks that don't want to let you go ("and another one bites the dust") the way 16 to 26 yr old guys may still have--or continuing heavy drinkers or adventure-devotees may still have at 30 and beyond.

 

So she might be calling a halt to your deepening stage, because she's suddenly aware that 1. she doesn't want to get married within the next year, and 2. she doesn't want to feel like she's hurting your feelings every time she doesn't want to be with you. If #1 may be the case, then you've found out in time to assess her life trajectory, and if it seems to be true, you can ask her--better by email, so she's not caught by surprise, but can think it over before answering you.

 

You could also include in that written communication a few questions about her past relationship experiences. Have you two ever talked about that? It's very wise to do that, tho often people wait until this crisis you're in right now forces them to examine each other's goals--and I think Raphael was focusing on some of that too. "Have you had any long-term relationships in the last 4 years? How did they turn out? Are you worried about me becoming too intense about being together, and perhaps possessive?" If for EITHER of you this is your first new relationship after a long term love that ended within the last year or two, that one might have moved rapidly into this relationship because it felt so good to soothe the wounds and worries about oneself that came from that ending. If SHE's actually done that with you, then it's quite possible that she's just had the time to realize that she doesn't know you enough as YOU, but rather as the kind sweet guy who's just naturally done what she's needed to feel better after her wounding in a big long past relationship-- such as a love that finished thru college but stumbled and crashed before marriage, or a love that lasted for several years since the first time after high school when she was hoping HE would be THE ONE, so she'd gain the summit of the noncollege-woman's aspirations, to MARRY the RIGHT GUY. And what about YOU? How does your relationship history affect your goals and feelings at this time?

 

THis kind of understanding of both relationship history affects and age- and career- and parenthood-related influences is almost unheard-of among couples counselors, any kinds of therapists, or any research psychologists, (because they don't deal with individual nitty gritty issues between intimates).

 

I'm bringing this up, because if you are able to consider carefully where you are in your life trajectory and where she is too, then you have a good chance of finding out if you're on parallel paths that could readily converge and stay merged (IF you don't discover some irreconcilable differences that typically don't emerge until 6months or later) or NOT. And if you're NOT in sync in your lives now and in the next 10 years--when you may want to be settled-down and steady & growing children, but she may NOT for another 5 yrs at least--then YOU can make your own decision about whether you want to continue to deepen or not, and you will still be hurt, but not feeling helpless as you do now.

 

IF she could really be ready for marriage, and IF it's not just your feelings that are driving your relationship, but also your reasonable likelihood of a happy & mutually satisfying future together, then there's a good chance she'll get over her need to back off this much once she finds out she doesn't have to feel bad about doing it. For if she's not had a respected RULE in this relationship that allows her to stay away for a few days here and there, and not to have to immediately promise when she'll be back to be at your side--and IF she learns that YOU also know how to enjoy YOUR alone time and/or your time with other people. Then the problem of Space can be solved.

 

 

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