Introvert Alone Time Causes Conflict

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Dear Hoopers,
I’ve been in a relationship with a guy (John) for about 6 months and our relationship started off very well. We are very similar people and hit it off wonderfully but for the better half of our relationship we have been arguing about the same problems. I am a very introverted person and I value my alone time more than anything else and I have been very open with John since we started dating but about three months ago I asked to spend a day alone after spending all of my free time with him for months and he got angry that I needed alone time because it made him feel unloved in the relationship. That initial fight has been coming up over and over again over the last two months with other problems like hurtful jokes about food (I have suffered from an eating disorder for around 4 years and I’ve been very open with John about it yet he continues to make jokes about almost everything I eat) and many other small things.

Two weeks ago we had another huge argument and I wanted to end things but he convinced me to give it one more chance, and after that argument our relationship seems better. He left for a vacation to Israel halfway through last week and I thought I’d miss him but I don’t at all. Even though the time after our last big argument has been much better I feel like I am just waiting for the same problems to start up again. I know that he is trying to make the relationship work but I don’t think that these issues can be fixed. We have been trying to fix them for months and it hasn’t worked in the past. He is so adamant about trying to fix it but I don’t know if I can or want to even work on it anymore. I would have ended our relationship earlier but all of our friends that we see regularly were friends with him before me and I’m scared that if I end the relationship it won’t end well because he truly believes we can fix it and because of that I will lose my friends.
-Introvert Alone Time Causes Conflict

Dear Alone Time,
Things were going smoothly until they weren’t. This is often the rhythm of new relationships that aren’t meant to be. From everything that I’m hearing you say in the question, it sounds like you are ready to get out of this relationship but you feel compelled to keep giving it a try. Perhaps this is somewhat motivated by you, but it sounds like much of this pull is coming from him. When the other person needs to convince you to stay in the relationship, it is probably a bad sign.

I believe that it critical for you to listen to these feelings you are having telling you to leave this relationship. These feelings will be right more times than not, and it is important that you explore these feelings in order to understand why you are feeling that way. Find someone that you trust, perhaps someone in your friend group, to help you talk through your feelings.

The regular fighting in your relationship is quite concerning to me. Don’t get me wrong, conflict is a part of any relationship, but regular blow-ups are a sign of unhealthy dynamics. In particular, his regular comments about your struggles with an eating disorder are a deal breaker for me. People struggling with mental health often deal with enough guilt and shame as it is, the last thing anyone needs is a critical partner. Perhaps he could benefit from some education about how to be supportive, but that is quite a task to add to your already present relationship problems.


Regular blow-ups are a sign of unhealthy dynamics.

-Dr. Ryan

I do understand the consideration of how ending this relationship may affect some friendships. This is always a risk any time you are dating within your friend group. But also consider that unless you and he are going to stay together for the rest of your life, this break up will have some effect on your relationship someday. Protect your mental health and find the right relationship for you. If your friends aren’t supportive of that, they really aren’t your friends.
-Dr. Ryan

Dear Alone Time,
Upon reading your question, my initial reaction was concern about the amount of arguing within your first six months of dating. I was particularly rubbed the wrong way about his hurtful words regarding your eating. It doesn’t matter if you are versed in eating disorders to know to avoid criticism around such a sensitive subject. A loving partner should be there to support you, not make hurtful comments.

If you want to work through this, it’s worth putting in some time into learning how you love. I say this because it sounds like there are things you both need, dependent and independent of the relationship, that are not being well communicated. Everyone gives and receives love differently. I recommend giving The 5 Love Languages a read, which holds that there are five main ways that people show their affection. This is also the way they typically prefer to receive affection.


A loving partner should be there to support you, not make hurtful comments.

-Kate

In other words, he may think that always spending time together is key, when in the end he’s loving you the way he would like to be loved. It doesn’t mean you have to align on the same way to love, but it will help you better understand how to love your partner better. If not for this relationship, this could be helpful in a future relationship down the road. It’s worth a try.

Lastly, the shared friend situation is hard, but it’s not worth staying with someone who is incompatible because of the fear of losing friends. It isn’t fun for you or them, but good friends will be there for you regardless.
-Kate