Can’t seem to figure out relationship

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My Girlfriend and I have been together for about half a year now, and for the most part it’s been wonderful. We get along like no relationship I’ve ever been in, and, I’m just really in love. It’s not really a long distance relationship, but, we definitely don’t live close to each other. This leads to there being some difficulties in seeing each other, and it keeps getting worse and worse. When we met, she was living at school and we saw each other 3 or 4 times a week, and i usually spent the night half the time. Now she lives at home, where i can’t see spend the night OR even visit, her family does not approve of me. We promised each other we’d make things work, but she seems to be trying less and less. She constantly tells me she’s in love with me, but won’t try to see me or spend time with me, sometimes because of her Job and School which i entirely understand but other times she makes excuses that don’t seem plausible, like her family telling her she isn’t allowed to leave the house.

A little while back, it was too much, and we called it quits, very amicably. She said she had too much in her life to take care of to be with me. I told her i wasn’t happy, but i understood, and i’d like to stay friends, because i still care for her very much. Now I see her all the time, she still tells me she loves me, she makes comments about me being “all hers” and acts the way she did when the relationship started. Except she says we aren’t together. I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but, I just don’t understand, this can’t all be about some silly label of ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’, can it?

A: Actually it can be. Your girlfriend is in a bind. If she is “with” you, her parents will be upset. If she calls it quits entirely, you will be upset – and so will she. The way to shoot the middle is to be your very, very good friend but not to define the relationship as being boyfriend-girlfriend.

Right now she is dependent on parents who for some reason don’t approve of you. She can’t afford to do something dramatic like telling them off or packing her bags. If she loves her parents, she doesn’t want to damage her relationship with them either. She’s stuck. That puts the ball in your court. She can’t change things but you may be able to.

One way you can help is to do everything you can to improve your relationship with the parents. Of course, if they disapprove due to something unchangeable like race, this isn’t possible. But if they have some mistaken ideas about you, perhaps you can do a few things to change their minds. Set whatever anger you have about it aside. Ask your girlfriend to be as specific as she can about what exactly they find objectionable. Then make an honest effort to show them your best self. With time, you may just win them over. Your girlfriend will love you all the more for making the effort. And you will have made peace with people you might be related to someday.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Nov 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Can’t seem to figure out relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/11/13/cant-seem-to-figure-out-relationship/