Adapted from a recent online discussion.
When you love her, but you really, really don't like her
Q: I am 21. My girlfriend and I have been together for about eight months and have agreed to be exclusive and to do everything we can to keep this relationship healthy and working. However, I am finding that I love her, but I don't really enjoy being around her.
I've never been serious with anyone before. Can I break up with her just because I don't like her? And if so, then what does it mean to be "committed" to someone anyway?
A: Any reason you don't like someone is a good enough reason to break up, because (healthy) people don't want to be with someone who doesn't want to be with them.
It hurts to be dumped, people never forget when it happens, they feel unwanted and angry and misunderstood and a bunch of other things nobody wants to feel, but every single one of these nasty side effects is better than being with someone who doesn't even like you. The chance to be with someone who truly, deeply appreciates them is a chance none of us has any right to deny other people. If you're looking for a graceful exit, there it is.
As for what commitment means, at the dating stage, it means you're dating no one but her. It doesn't apply in perpetuity until you agree to be life partners — and even then, it's generally understood that people do sometimes grow apart or become victims of unforeseeable circumstance.
Anonymous: "I love her, but I don't really enjoy being around her." What on earth does this mean? What do people think "love" consists of?
Carolyn: I dunno, it doesn't strike me as that strange. In fact I think it happens a lot more than people admit, or are able to name. I see it as when you care about someone, you have a lot invested in the person, you have a lot of shared memories together, but when the door closes behind him or her, you want run around the house with your arms outstretched, saying, "WHEEEEEEE!!!"
Anonymous 2: Re: "WHEEEEEEE!!!": You just explained exactly how I feel about my husband. I DO love him, and I miss him when he's gone (which is a lot right now, he's in grad school), but when he's around I feel suffocated, and I REALLY look forward to my time alone. I've been trying to reconcile these feelings.
Carolyn: Sorry. It might just be that your two personalities require extra effort to get along. Too much togetherness can leave you feeling drained.
Or, you're apart so much you're not used to all that togetherness anymore, and you pack too much into the rare times you share.
Missing him is a good sign, and there's nothing wrong with being content in someone's absence; any introvert would feel that to some extent.
That doesn't mean you necessarily want to be alone all the time. You can still value companionship. It just might require managing your time together a bit better, taking care to build in breaks, avoiding things proven to get on your nerves.