Relationship Advice: Long distance relationship, confusion and poor communication

I am currently in a long distance relationship. My boyfriend and I started dating in May of 2008, we had been friends for about 6months prior to this. When we started dating he was leaving for California in August to pursue his masters, I would stay in Kansas and pursue mine. We did not talk about the future at first as we were unsure of how serious the relationship would be.

By the middle of July we knew we wanted to start planning our future to work through the long distance. We planned our trips to see each other (every two week one of us would fly) very rarely, but only due to finals did we wait three weeks to see each other. We meet each other’s parents and close friends (that did not live in Kansas as we had already met those friends). We also talked about where we would live and what we would do after we both graduated in May of 2010.

Everything was going well in the relationship until March 1. During one of our regular visits we had a huge fight. I knew the relationship was in trouble, but thought we could fix it as we had been extremely happy until that point. As we talked the next few weeks we both realized that there were several little things that had bothered both of us, but we had neglected to talk about them since we spent so little time together.
If we could avoid a fight on our weekend together we would. Over the phone we didn’t want to discuss hard issues as you can’t look at each other and know how they’re feeling. But after the disagreement March 1 we knew we had to start tackling the issues. The first two-three weeks were really tough, we would have conversations about hard/tense topics, some days the conversations were light hearted, like they had been in the past, but most of the time the conversations were tough. We both felt like we needed to make progress or things would not get better.

Around April 1 started to feel better and we started going back to ourselves on the phone. I knew when I saw Adam that he still wondered if we were right for one another, but he seemed happy with the progress we made.

To give a brief outline of our difficulties, Adam was looking at internships, but was having no luck finding one due to the failing economy. This led to a lot of stress for him and on us.

When we talked I tended to try and keep things light, we would talk about what we planned to do when we saw each other, how much we missed each other, silly stories about co-workers and classmates, and so forth.

The conversations were not great, but I was nervous to bring up items that may upset him since he was under so much pressure (school, internship, money, etc).  When we did address our problems Adam felt that our conversations had lacked substance and he questioned if we were right for one another. I did communicate why I focused on those areas and we agreed to cover more items that would affect us later in life: hopes, dreams, school work, internships, career aspirations, etc.

Adam and I are both in our mid 20s. Until we dated Adam had not dated anyone for an extended period of time, more than 5 months. I was nervous about this at first, but realized it was not because Adam enjoyed “playing the field” he is a very serious man and was just not willing to settle for someone that he felt would not led to a serious relationship.

I appreciated this about him and have never once questioned his commitment to our relationship. But due to his lack of having a past serious relationship I wonder if this does not contribute to our feelings/difficulties right now. Adam and I have talked through so many issues, we have moved past these issues or compromised. In my experience none of the issue we had would I have considered a “deal-breaker” they were little miscommunications that we worked on. But Adam is still unhappy about something, and he can’t put his finger on it.

As of late our conversations have gone back to being unhappy were we keep trying to figure out what’s wrong. I’ve told him that neither one of us are acting like ourselves because we act so morbid on the phone.
We constantly worry about “how can we save this relationship” “can this relationship be saved”. If we continue to act like this we’ll never act like ourselves and be able to actually decide if our relationship can be saved. Adam has a gift and a curse of over-analyzing things, he has been dwelling on our situation a lot and it has started to affect his school work. I’ve tried to tell him that every relationship has it’s ups and downs, it will always take work, but it helps us appreciate it all the more.

I also wonder if our long distance did not affect the infatuation stage of our relationship. He mentioned last weekend that while he is happy to see me he’s just not as excited as he once was. I explained that while I’m always happy to see him the excitement in the relationship dies down, it starts to become normal. More of a happy time as that person has become a constant and supportive structure in your life.

I love Adam more than I’ve loved anyone. I feel that our relationship once was and can still be a wonderful thing. I do not know how to soothe his doubts and show him that we can be great together once again. I have pondered that maybe I should let him go. I do love him, but I wonder if he can ever fully appreciate what we have because he has nothing like it to compare it to. I’ve mentioned it to him before and he became upset with the idea, so I know he’s not completely ready to be done. But I know how hard it is to leave the first person you ever loved, and I don’t want to drag out the process if that’s what he needs to do.

It has been a difficult time for us and I want to make sure I am working towards a realistic goal if this can be saved. Or, I want to let him go and save him time and unneeded stress if this cannot. I love him so much.

LISA’S RELATIONSHIP ADVICE:

It’s hard enough to hold together a long distance relationship but when the communication is shallow and without substance, that can be an even bigger problem in the long run.  It sounds like you were trying to keep things light hearted to keep from adding to his stress but as you found out - it led him to question whether you two are compatible.  Whether or not he’s had long term relationships before doesn’t appear to be so much of the issue but rather you two got off on the wrong foot with your “fluffy” communication while engaged in a long distance relationship.  And here you are - he’s wondering if you’re the girl for him even after trying to shift the way you communicate to cover more life impacting issues.  But there seem to be a few other issues here as well.

Adam sounds confused.  The economy has done a number on a lot of people’s stress level, particularly men who have a lot of their ego attached to what they do (not to say that women don’t because they certainly can as well!).  Regardless, that stress may be causing additional strain to his ability to think and figure out what he wants.

He may have set a very high bar for himself for who he’s supposed to be with (as you hinted due to his relationship history).  This could be a problem for him if the expectations are unrealistic.  A lot of us have idealized visions of what our perfect mate should be like when the reality is nobody is perfect.

If he can’t see the beauty and value of your relationship there’s no way you’re going to be able to force him to.  Perhaps you deserve someone who is willing to meet you halfway and not be ambivalent.

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Lisa Brookes Kift is a relationship therapist and creator of Ask the Therapist - A Relationship Advice Blog.  See more relationship articles, tips and tools in The Toolbox: Resources for Emotional and Relationship Health. 

Relationship Advice: I’m Not Accepted by my Iranian Girlfriend’s Parents

I’ve been dating this Iranian woman for 2 years going on 3 and weve been doing grat until recently.. For the time we’ve been together her parents didnt know anything about us being together until about 6 months ago when she decided she want to tell them so she did and it didnt end well they told her that they wouldnt allow her to see me anymore.. We still did anyway ok so now about a month ago he parents found out again and it was the samething all over again and this time she left home for a litte while and went and stayed with her sister for a little while.. but now she is back home with her family and we are trying to find out a way for her to get her parents to aceept me with open arms… Please Help

LISA’S RELATIONSHIP ADVICE:

It sounds like there’s a reason your girlfriend didn’t tell her parents about you – and now that they know, they don’t approve.  I’m not sure if there is a cultural, religious or other reason but the bottom line is they’ve told her that you do not fit their idea of the kind of man she should be with.  How hard for you!  You’ve been dating her for almost 3 years!

Unfortunately, this may be less about what you can do to get them to accept you and more about your girlfriend setting boundaries with her family.  This may not be something she is comfortable doing but if not, she’s basically got to accept the fact that her parents having the ultimate say in who she’s with.  Being American myself, I can’t really relate to my parents having that much control over the direction of my life but I understand that this is not so uncommon in other cultures.  I have received similar relationship advice questions before so I know it’s an issue for people, particularly for those who may have been born in the U.S. with parents who were not.

Bottom line:  Her parents may never accept you with open arms.  If they do, I suspect this isn’t really in your control but more about her verbalizing her desires to them.  Tough situation – especially because you’re likely dealing with firmly held beliefs in her family about how things are supposed to be in regards to who she marries, etc.  She’s likely afraid they will disown or reject her if she goes against them.

Your girlfriend may need to decide if she can tolerate “their way” or whether she wants to do something different.  If she does – there may be consequences for her. 

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Lisa Brookes Kift is a therapist, writer and creator of The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com.  She has written two workbooks for couples;  The Premarital Counseling Workbook and The Marriage Refresher Course.  Lisa also has a marriage and relationships column for Examiner.com. 

Sign up for her monthly Toolbox Newsletter for relationship articles, tips and tools.

Relationship Advice: I’m Feeling Trapped in my Relationship

I am 21 years old and graduating college in 2 weeks. I have been dating a guy I met at college for 2 years now. He is honestly my best friend and we do have a lot of fun together. Our relationship has started to become very routine and we rarely ever had sex. I wound up breaking up with him a few months ago and he took the news EXTREMELY hard. He cried so much about it and made me feel like the worst person ever. He guilt tripped me everyday and questioned “Why would you do this to me? I dont deserve this!” After questioning me everyday and telling me he would change I decided to take him back. Things were going great and I was starting to feel great again. But now, things are starting to turn back into the same old thing. Sex is completely awkward between us and I haven’t had the desire to have sex with him and he doesn’t understand why. I am moving back home to my parents house and he questions me constantly “Your not going to break up with me are you? Do you REALLY love me?”

I feel like the man in this relationship because is SO sensitive to everything. I can’t handle the pressure from him and I am starting to feel trapped. But I am deathly afraid to breakup with him again because I am scared he is going to loose it. Please help me, I know this sounds so childish but I have resorted to asking advice because I am so confused.

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LISA’S RELATIONSHIP ADVICE:

You asking for relationship advice in this way is not childish – this is an issue you’re trying to figure out!  Let me see if I can offer you anything helpful:

Your boyfriend sounds a bit insecure, for sure.  The way you describe the way he’s reacted when you’ve tried to break up is of concern.  Most of us want partners who are at least somewhat confident, right?  The problem with someone who acts “clingy” or “needy” is that they can leave the partner feeling just are you are – “trapped.”  

You have the right to be with the person who feels like a good fit – not be pressured to stay with someone out of fear of their reaction if you leave.  I’m not really sure how scary his behavior is – but if it’s really concerning, I would get his friends and family involved as a support network.  If you see anything that looks suicidal or otherwise self harming (or other-harming) don’t hesitate to call 911.

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Lisa Brookes Kift is a therapist, writer and creator of The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com.  She has written two workbooks for couples;  The Premarital Counseling Workbook and The Marriage Refresher Course.  Lisa also has a marriage and relationships column for Examiner.com. 

Sign up for her monthly Toolbox Newsletter for relationship tips and other information.