I see less of her and it hurts

-- Question for John --

My girl girlfriend and I have been going out 4 months. We have been together 24/7 nearly during the time we have been together. But she says she wants to start seeing her best friends more often. This has started and I am seeing less of her and it hurts. I start wondering if I have done something wrong as I don’t crave the attention of anyone else except her.

We both love each other which sometimes reassures me. But I am worried that her friends will start to pull her away from me. She was in a relationship which went badly wrong with her being cheated on. I myself was cheated on with my last partner. I hope you can help. The feeling is really hard to describe. But I know it hurts as I am on my own, typing this while she is shopping with her friends in the city. Many thanks.

-- Answer from John --

You already know that you cannot own someone, or control them, or put them in a cage. That only kills love. Trying to keep her from her friends is the fastest way to kill the positive love the two of you share.

It is normal for a healthy relationship have an initial honeymoon phase, which lasts for a few months generally, where you are together all the time, and you close the rest of the world out.

Then it is normal that a healthy relationship will shift after a few months, and each person will want to start bringing back the rest of their own normal worlds — friends, activities, family, interests in school, jobs, hobbies, whatever.

One person generally gets to that shifting place sooner than the other. That is all that has happened here. There is nothing wrong, objectively speaking, for what she is doing. In fact, she is doing the healthy thing. She just started doing it sooner than you were ready to do it yourself. One person generally starts doing that sooner.

What most couples do at this point is to entirely ruin their love. They do it this way: The one who doesn’t want to make this shift yet starts hurting, which is normal. But then they start blaming this hurt on the other person. The other person is then caught between caring about the first person, feeling guilty, but still, since you cannot turn back the shift, they also start thinking the hurt person who blames them is essentially blaming them for being the full person they are. So that sense of blame and guilt then start contaminating the relationship, and the love starts to suffer. Going on this way, the couple starts getting into fights over who is acting in a “not caring way” — and who is acting too “needy” — and then resentments build up until the relationship has to split apart. This is what lots and lots of couples do, which is why you don’t exactly see too many really happy longterm couples around you. And if you look at what is starting to happen now, right now, for you, you can kind of see how you could act out this movie with her. Believe me, it always ends up in the same place: total misery and relationship break-up time. But it’s your choice. You may just feel so bad that you have no inner control over acting it out this way or not.

If you do not want to act it out, the best place to stop it is right now.

It would be nice if you could find it in yourself to go with the flow and not turn this natural relationship transition into a big, dramatic abandonment thing. If you do make a big dramatic thing of it, and how hurt you are by it, you do get the drama — but you also are throwing a curve ball into what is actually a pretty natural phase of a relationship, where both people integrate their own individuality back into their lives in the context of having the relationship. This makes the relationship more relevant to the real world and actually makes it more solid and strong. If you can, it would be great if you could look upon this as an opportunity rather than a crisis.

The path from the honeymoon to becoming longterm soulmates has within it normal places that challenge each of us. This is one of those places for you. It is phase two of a relationship, where the real world re-enters the equation. The key is to look inside yourself and see how this can be an opportunity for your own personal growth. Ask yourself, “What is this situation telling me I need to develop more of within myself right now???” Then take that as your lesson plan for the next several months, to find ways to develop whatever that is, which would bring you a greater sense of inner peace and wholeness.

Obviously, your lesson plan includes learning to better deal with the feelings that are coming up in you right now around this normal transition to the next phase of your relationship with her. Learning to work with your inner emotions and find peace in that process. When you look outward, to her to take care of those hurting feelings, then you are pointing your relationship in the direction of co-dependency, which never works and always becomes even far more painful in the end. The feelings that are coming up within you are your job to take care of. You can do this, and become much more centered and strong within yourself. This, in turn, makes your relationship grow stronger. Trying to get her to change what she is doing so you don’t hurt so much is the other way around, and it does not work out longterm. It never does. Never.

So find out how to soothe your own feelings at this point in time. Find ways to support yourself in that. I hope that some of what I have had to say makes sense to you. Believe me, at 20 I did not get this. If you get even a part of it, you will be far ahead of me at your age.