I need your cat-wisdom. I know the human idea of only having one lover at a time seems impractical to your polyamorous feline ways, but it works for some people. I'm having problems with my girlfriend; I feel like I had given so much effort in the past (like above and beyond), not expecting that much in return, but at least hoping for some level of joy and passion I felt in the beginning.
For many of the holidays I've received gifts that reflected her interests more than mine. Mostly they were very thoughtful, but most I could have picked up from the store and given to any of my friends and they would have been appreciative. I'm not being superficial; I just want to know that my partner actually knows what I like outside of what we have in common.
She says I get upset a lot, and that's probably true. But before I bring up a complaint, I try to think about it to see if I'm overreacting, and then I ask her about it. But the issues never feel resolved. I get more questions and doubts.
I feel like a part-time boyfriend. I feel like I disappear when we're not immediately together or that I will never really know about her life outside of what we have together. It's not that I'm nosy; I'm just genuinely interested in her life. But she doesn't really think it's my business, per se.
I know I can be difficult; I'm jealous, over-sensitive, emotional, stubborn, sarcastic, blunt, etc. But I know I'm a great boyfriend; I'm adoring, not high-maintenance, capable of unconditional love, attentive to her needs, supportive, and I make plenty of room for her own space.
I'm receiving lots of outside advice saying I should think about if I'm happy, and if I'm not (which they say I don't appear to be happy or satisfied), that I should break up with her. They tell me I can do better, and that I'm an attractive guy and that there's someone else waiting. I get uneasy when they talk like this, like me even listening to the conversation is making me unfaithful.
I love her, and I'm willing to shell out even more effort for us, but I'm so scared things will never change for the better.
Please help me, Tazi!
Scared & Confused
Dear Scared & Confused:
So many issues all at once! I can see why your outside advice givers are recommending a break-up, but I like to leave the drastic measures as a plan of last resort. From what I see in my mailbag, a lot of couples who break up end up getting back together and riding an emotional merry-go-round as they try to make things work. To me, this is like trying to repair a broken window: all the pieces may fit back together, but there are still visible cracks that remind you of what happened to cause the break; this can put further stress on an already fragile relationship. Since you and your girlfriend have not yet broken up, saving the relationship now will be easier to do than after a break-up; I will try to address your concerns in the order you have written them!
To start, gift giving can be a chore, even for someone who likes to shop. Sometimes, as well as humans know each other, they are scared to stray from the known path and get into a safe but boring gift-giving rut. Something I see humans doing a lot of is list making; you could make a list of “Awesome Stuff I Want (When I Can Afford Them)” and tack it to your refrigerator door or somewhere else your girlfriend will see it. Include different price points from inexpensive (pine scented candle so your bathroom does not smell bad); moderate (CK One cologne so you do not smell bad); to expensive (Beer Brewer’s weekend getaway at the Woodstock Station (NH) Inn and Brewery where it naturally smells of pine and CK One notes). If your lady friend sees something on the list that she likes you can be assured that it will show up at your next gift-receiving event! If nothing more, the list can be a conversation starter between you and her offering insight into your lesser known interests.
Second, on the issue of unresolved issues: If an issue feels unresolved that means it is – at least for you, and unless an issue is resolved for both members of the couple it remains an issue in the relationship. When discussing these unresolved issues, try bringing them up at an appropriate time – like when she is relaxing on the couch, not when she is screaming that the toilet is overflowing and the plunger is missing. Timing is essential. You could also try to use “I Language”, which will help you to frame the issue as something that has you feeling insecure and not as something your partner has done wrong.
You do not say how long you and your girlfriend have been together, but I read that “many of the holidays” have passed in the span of your relationship, so to not know about her life outside of what you have together is disconcerting. Have you expressed an interest in meeting her friends? Has she shown an interest in meeting yours? A sign that someone sees you as a long-term partner is the introduction to the members of their inner circle. (My Mommie was dating my “Uncle” for only a month when her best friend got married, so Mommie did not take him to the wedding although she now wishes she did). If you have met her friends and family, try to let go of your insecurities and ask yourself what exactly she is keeping from you. If she does not talk about work it could be because she likes to leave it at the office; if she does not like to talk about what she and her girlfriends discussed over coffee, be grateful! Trust me; you do not want to know!
If, however, she is closing you out of her life altogether this could be a signal that she is not ready to fully commit – like the woman who hides her engagement ring when an attractive man looks her way, she may be afraid that she is settling.
The personal qualities that you list as negatives – “jealous, over-sensitive, emotional, stubborn, sarcastic, blunt, etc” – are characteristics that many people love (especially sarcastic, blunt, and emotional). If this is a part of who you are, your lady friend should love you because of them, not in spite of them. The positive qualities you list are going to leave my mailbox full of requests for your contact information, which I am sure you already receive from people you meet in person, if you let these qualities show. In the end, you have to ask yourself, “Am I allowed to be myself in this relationship? Does my partner love me for who I am, or for who they think I am? Do they love me because of how I act or in spite of how I act?” Once you know the answers to these questions, the decision to work on your relationship or to let go will be easier to answer.
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.