Sunday, February 25, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Needy partner should find his own circle

Q: Is there a way to help someone else build his social circle? My partner and I are both in our 30s with a fair amount of free time. We do spend quite a bit of time together and go on regular dates.

I am a "joiner" and am involved in things that occupy the rest of my free time. My partner does not, and has begun complaining that he feels lonely when I am away from home for a few hours in the evening.

I don't think I can be happy in a relationship where I forgo my hobbies and time with other friends in order to keep him constant company. Where appropriate, I invite him to join me, but I can't always do that, and he often declines and counter-proposes doing something at home.

He has a handful of close friends, but he does not make a meaningful effort to spend time with them and defaults to wanting me to do everything/go everywhere with him.

What next? I don't want to think this is a relationship killer.

Active Partner, Lonely Partner

A: You don't want to, but you may have to, because you can't make a person social who isn't — nor is it your job to.

But first, it sounds like it's time for the "This is the way I am" conversation, where you spell out that:

— You are a joiner, like being a joiner, and don't intend to stop being a joiner;

— You are happy to include him where appropriate but it won't always be;

— You don't see such inclusion on its own as a solution for his loneliness;

— You understand he is lonely and will support him in his effort to find more companionship but you won't agree to be the sole source of that companionship.

Once you've spelled this out as a non-negotiable part of being with you, then he gets to decide whether he's willing to accept you and your relationship on those terms, or if he wants something different.

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