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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5334
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology helping with relationships
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Customer Question

I am having a difficult time figuring out if I truly love my boyfriend of 6 months or if I am just putting up my guard to prevent from getting hurt by pulling back from the relationship (being more distant). I have been good friends with my bf for the past 2 years and I know his family well and we've always gotten along with no problems. We do have similar life goals and things we want to acomplish in life. It's a long distant relationship right now. He is 24 and I'm 28...sometimes I feel like I'm a "motherly" role in our relationship and I want to avoid that but not sure how to? Also, I feel like I'm the "male" role in the relationship as in I can go days without talking to him but I still think about him all the time and wonder how he's doing, but I don't stress out if I can't talk to him every day. He is always calling and wanting to "spend" time together and he's told me that he's normally not clingy but bc of the long distance he wants to make the most of what communication we do have. I'm not sure if I should put more effort or "take a break"? Again, I think I love him, but am feeling smothered right now. I feel like if I tell him I don't want to talk he'll think I don't love him. Help!
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 5 years ago.

Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

Your question is a good one; it is a hazard of long distance relationships. Why are they particularly problematic?

Because there's no clear way to know whether what you're seeing in him and what you're feeling in yourself are really who he is and really who you are or if it is a product of the uncertainties of being apart. So there is no clear way to judge.

Either way, it's clear that you are more of a "I need my space" kind of person and he is more of a "I need reassurance" kind of person. But whether it is a difference that can harmonize well or will be an irritant even more when you're living together is unknown at this point. And that's the key here:

There is no way to know while you two are separated. Therefore, the way to deal with this is not to try to know for sure. What do I mean?

This isn't a time to make decisions based on these differences between you. And you don't have to decide right now. So relax with it and give the relationship time to develop. Yes, you want to know if this is something that will make living together awful or if you love him and when you're together it will even out. Keep allowing yourself to not know right now because there is no way to know. If you force yourself to make a decision, it will often be the wrong decision. You'll either break it off and regret or commit to something you shouldn't have.

The second key is to make sure that the long term nature of the relationship has a definite end point. It can't be open ended that maybe in a few years or something you'll be together. That's holding your life hostage. The real discussion has to be what steps you two are going to take to rearrange your lives to give the relationship an opportunity to either flourish or reveal that it won't work. That means arranging jobs, schooling, or whatever has to be done. Because, again, you can't live in this suspended state too long.

So rather than trying to answer whether you really love him or whether there are some unhealthy feelings going on, work on creating the time frame for finding out whether this will work. And if you and he aren't willing to do what it takes to be together within a year or so, then that gives you the answer right there that it is time to move on.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

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