No relationship is perfect. So one of the key ingredients in a long-term relationship is being able to be honest while diplomatic about changes that would improve the relationship and boundaries that need to be set.
If people are too worried about hurting each others’ feelings to be candid, then long-term intimacy may be severely compromised. While attack and defensiveness are counter-productive, honest expression of your needs and desires in a relationship is crucial. A couple needs to be able to talk openly about what is not working in their relationship.
Have you both been able to discuss the issues in your relationship? Do you know why your girlfriend needs to move out to re-evaluate the relationship? Are you sure she is not simply trying to ease out of the relationship without hurting you too much?
Having it both ways
Your girlfriend seems to be calling all the shots while you hand over all of the control in the relationship to her. Separating and the possibility of getting back together seem to be in her hands. Is she trying to have it both ways–keep you waiting for her, while she decides what she really wants?
Being too compliant
Notice that she was the one reassuring you, which means she assumes that you will be there waiting for her. Consider whether you have allowed a dynamic to develop in your relationship where you give her total control in the name of being agreeable and accommodating.
While it is important to be reasonably accommodating in a relationship, when you give up too much of your power and subordinate your needs and desires to another person, you will become emotionally debilitated. As a result, you will feel lackluster, your partner will lose interest in you, and passion will tend to diminish. Even if you do get back together, if this dynamic continues, you will lose your sense of self by being too compliant, and she will lose her desire for you.
Taking control of your own life and your role in the relationship
1. Have a candid conversation. Ask her to explain why she is dissatisfied. Assure her that you can handle the truth and see if she can be candid about why she wants to separate. In order for you to have the opportunity to re-evaluate the relationship, you need to know what’s bothering her and whether she can handle difficulties in a relationship as part of a team.
2. Live your life, don’t put it on hold. Keep your life engaged. Avoid sitting around waiting for her to decide whether she can do better. Give her space while maintaining your own friendships and social activities. It’s always good to keep your life interesting and continue to pursue your passions, whether living together, married or not. You will feel more alive and be a more interesting and desirable person.
3. Re-evaluate your relationship with her. Make sure you also re-evaluate the relationship on your own terms. Make sure you are in touch with your own needs and desires and not just simply complying with hers. Imagine that you do get back together. Can you avoid walking on eggshells wondering if she’s going to back away again? Will you two be able to discuss boundaries, needs, and desires? Will you be second-guessing her and trying to appease her so that she doesn’t leave again? Are you willing to simply wait and hope for her to decide to get back together with you? How do you really feel about her wanting to separate yet wanting to keep her options open?
Based on your reflections about these questions, you might tell her what your desires are and decide what actions you would like to take, and see if you can have a productive conversation together.
Separation can be helpful especially if you are both young and haven’t developed a strong sense of self. However, long-term relationships require trust, which is best promoted by honest and open discussions about the inevitable challenges that arise in a relationship.
by Dr. Alison Poulsen