Whatever the issue, Shari Hardies, LCSW, is here to help.
Q1.) Hi there Shari,
My boyfriend (who I’ve been with for a few years now) used to have a few friends in the area that he hung out with a lot. But they’ve all moved away or haven’t been in as close of contact, which is fine, but he seems to be clinging on to me more than trying to upkeep those relationships.
I love being around him, of course, but it seems like me doing my normal routine and being with my friends makes him feel like I don’t make time for him, which isn’t true! Is there any way I can tell him nicely (and effectively) that he’s being a bit too clingy?
A.) Hi Un-cling, thanks for writing in and looking for advice. It sounds like there may be a few issues to deal with so we should probably separate them out.
To start with it seems that you are starting to have some fears about your boyfriend changing or becoming more antisocial. I can see how that may start to feel “too clingy” and suffocating. It is a popular trend for males who are in comfortable relationships to stop putting effort into their other relationships and friends. There are many theories I can explore to discuss this but I would like to remain man friendly and not stereotype an entire gender.
I want to stress that it is really not your place to make your boyfriend pay attention to his friends, he needs to do that if he wants to. This doesn’t mean “too bad, too sad” for you, I just want to be clear that you shouldn’t force this change, it will need to come from him.
Secondly, you seem to be left feeling guilty about your normal social activity when your boyfriend doesn’t have anything to do. I wonder if that is coming from your boyfriend or you. Can anyone ever really make us feel guilty? Can anyone really make us make friends for that matter? The answer on both accounts is no! Do not feel guilty about doing what you enjoy doing, particularly if it is important to you. In general, playing into your boyfriend’s behavior is never going to change it in any meaningful way.
I’m going to go back to what I always suggest in many matters of relationship need, communicate with your partner about your fears and needs. I would recommend that you discuss your feelings of guilt around hanging out with your friends and together work on eliminating that. It is his choice to hang out socially or not, but you feeling guilty for doing what you have always done is not going to work for either of you. It is important that he is told how you feel so that he has choices to change his behavior or make sure his behavior isn’t contributing to your guilt. I think in general this is a very typical issue that couples struggle with and you guys will find a way to make it work. Good luck!
Q2.) Hi Shari,
I’ve always been a little more introverted when it comes to dating, which makes it hard to open up as I get older and do more exciting things. Do you have any tips for what to do on dates or where to go? I don’t want to pretend I’m someone I’m not, but I want to have fun still!
A) Hi there Fun Dater. I really respect your good intuition around not wanting to pretend you are something that you are not while on a date. You go girl! So often I find that people misrepresent themselves on dates to have a more successful interaction.
I think there is a certain mystery that happens on dates where people can choose to put on a mask or be themselves depending on what they are hoping to get out of it. If you are looking for long term possibilities, BE YOURSELF. With that said, there is no rule that indicates that you can’t explore your personality on a date and push yourself to try new things.
Part of what makes going on a date so exciting is the idea of possibilities, but I like to remind folks that it is also a one-time thing if it isn’t a good time. Some tips on where to go on a date:
1. Museums- A fun or great museum is a great date because it offers the ability to talk and be alone if that is working, or the ability to wander and be quietly checking out exhibits if the date isn’t.
2. Amusement parks (indoor or outdoor) – smaller amusement parks give everyone a chance to truly smile and have fun while on a date. The most attractive dating quality is having fun.
3. Zoo/ Botanical Gardens– The idea of walking around the zoo or a garden offers the same possibilities as the museum, it takes some pressure off the idea that you have to entertain each other and come up with all the conversation, while giving you ample time to connect.
4. I like the idea of going to a restaurant that offers stuff to do, some restaurants have full game rooms or billiards as part of the experience. I think it is always helpful to have a venue that allows you to act like a kid and have some fun.
Q3.) Hi Shari!
I’ve had a bit of a cold streak when it comes to dating. I feel like I’ve just been rejected so many times after first and second dates. Do you have any advice for getting over this kind of disappointment? Thanks 🙂
Dear Cold Streak,
Ugh, cold streaks are the worst, I’m sorry you are in one right now, but I want you to know that no streak lasts forever! I really want to express that at some point dating cold streaks happen to everyone but sometimes it can be a vicious cycle. For instance, a few relationships end after date number one or two, then this becomes a fear that the rest of your dates will not go past two.
Once we become hung up on the fear that this might be our dating trend, it most certainly might manifest that way in your life. There is an expression in the field of neuroscience “what you fire, you wire” and in general that means that what we experience chemically in brains becomes our reality. If you feel that you are “reject able” than that may become what you are subconsciously putting out there when you date, and hence the cycle continues.
My best advice is to take a break if it isn’t working out for you right now. I like to see people take mini vacations and date themselves for a few weeks or longer if needed. Rediscover what you enjoy about dating and why you date to begin with. In essence, break your streak by having some great dates with yourself or your friends.
Perhaps what you discover while creating a positive streak of happy successful outings will assist you when you become interested in dating someone again. I always say “if you want things to be different, you need to try things differently”. I have complete faith that you will re-write your dating future if you take some time with yourself and figure out what kind of change you may be interested in. Best of luck to you!
Shari Hardies, LCSW, is a social worker and contributor to Sono Bello Style, that has a true passion for improving the lives of others. She will be answering weekly user submitted questions on the topics of dating, relationships and live.