It’s happened to most of us. We’re in a seemingly-promising relationship and then, all of a sudden, the other person starts pulling away. And nothing you try seems to help.
Recently, I featured a letter on this distressing dating situation in my Washington Blade advice column, and I’m posting it below, along with my reply.
The letter deals with some specifics about a same-sex romantic dating relationship, but the points I make in my reply are not specific to sexual orientation. I hope you’ll find my answer helpful.
And if you are struggling with this issue and looking for some guidance on how to proceed, feel free to contact me. I will be glad to help you figure out how to best move forward.
And, I wish all my readers a happy and healthy new year.
My girlfriend Anne* has been very distant from me lately and I would like to know your thoughts about what I can do to fix our relationship.
Some background: We’re both in our early 20s and have been dating about seven months. Things were great at first–she was really into me as I was into her. We’re each other’s first serious girlfriends and I’m the first gal she’s been with.
But a few weeks ago things started to shift, and she started to pull away. I don’t think it was a coincidence that it was after we went away for the first time on a weekend trip. I’m worried she feels overwhelmed and since then I am trying to give her space by not calling/texting too often but she just continues to be weird with me.
I’m afraid to ask her what’s up because I don’t want to seem needy.
I’m also wondering if she’s not comfortable with being in a same-sex relationship. Is it appropriate for me to suggest she see a therapist to help her be more comfortable?
I really like her a lot and want to get back on track. Help?
If you want to be in a thriving relationship with Anne, talk with her about where you stand and what you’ve been sensing of late. Ask her what’s been happening on her side. Don’t play games by trying to give the impression you’re less interested than you are. You want to have an honest relationship, not a relationship where you are afraid to be yourself for fear of upsetting or scaring off your girlfriend.
Do not bully, pressure, or guilt Anne. Just let her know what you would like. If she is nervous about moving forward and decides she’d like to stretch beyond her comfort zone, then you may have a relationship. If she isn’t looking for a deeper relationship and you don’t want to settle, accept her decision and move on.
Keep in mind that while getting close can feel good, it can also be scary. One big reason: When we get closer to another person, we also make ourselves more vulnerable, and most of us like to limit the likelihood that we’ll be hurt. So you might want to give Anne some time to decide if she’s willing to run the risks that come with increased closeness. Given that your relationship is pretty new, you may just be a little ahead of her in terms of readiness to move forward.
Regarding Anne’s possible discomfort with being in a lesbian relationship: It may be that you’re picking up on some fear of hers that she hasn’t really acknowledged, at least to you. If that’s the case, raising it as a possibility for her to consider might be helpful. However, many people dislike being psychoanalyzed by their significant others. And pushing her to figure herself out so that she can be with you isn’t your job. You’re not her therapist, and she is not a fix-up project. If you have to push or convince someone to be with you, you shouldn’t be with her. In any case, it’s totally in Anne’s court to decide to work on this issue–if it is indeed an issue for her.
One more thing to consider: You say you’re worried about seeming needy. I’m wondering if you think that you are. If you feel like your happiness depends on Anne staying with you, that is indeed a problem, for many reasons:
- Your well-being is your own responsibility
- You cannot count on another person to always be there
- Strong, self-reliant people make for resilient partners
- Conveying to a new-ish romantic interest that you depend on her is off-putting unless you want to date a caretaker rather than a peer.
So if you are indeed feeling like you won’t be ok if things don’t work out with Anne, start finding ways to shore yourself up. Some avenues that you may find helpful: Finding activities that give you a sense of purpose and worth; cultivating more friends; seeking a spiritual path that helps you keep yourself relatively calm and centered even when there’s stress in your life.
As much as you might like to make things work out with Anne, you can’t do it alone. Unless she’s on board, you will be wasting your time.
*All names and identifying details altered in this article.