Before COVID, I started to date someone, and things were going well. I had known her for a long time. Though we had different interests and different people in our lives, we always had fun times together, even before we started going out. She is a nice person, and her family always included me, also even before we started dating. The problem that I have now is really a continuation from before. She never wanted to go out more than once a week, and if we couldn’t see each other on the day we arranged to go out, another whole week would elapse before she would agree to go out.
Now with COVID, we see each other much less. It’s not due to social distancing, because we are very good about that when we do see each other. So I’m not sure what is going on with her. For example, I’ll send her a text in the morning, and she’ll answer me at night. She comes up with all sorts of excuses. When I call her, she says she is too tired to talk. She definitely doesn’t have another guy she’s seeing, but how can I have a relationship with her this way? I’m not a needy guy (though she actually told one of her friends that I’m needy), but I wouldn’t mind a little more attention from her. Plus, when I compliment her, she is not so quick to compliment me back. One of my friends told me that some girls are like that. They like to play hard to get and make it a challenge. But we are already in a relationship, so that’s not the case. What is your opinion about all this?
I’ve never liked the word “needy” when it is used in the context of not getting the attention one feels he or she deserves from a relationship. When people are in a relationship of any kind, within reason and healthy boundaries, people have needs that should be met. When they are not met, there is something going on, but, more importantly, dismissing your concerns by telling you or others that you’re needy is a problem in itself.
This issue is important enough to you that you are reaching out for assistance. You deserve answers and not some cop-out comment. You have known this woman for some time prior to entering into a relationship with her. So, you must have an idea about how she relates to the people in her life. When you first started dating her, and the relationship was progressing, she was not the type to want to get together all the time. You said that she was content to go out just once a week, and if something would come up, she was fine with skipping a week rather than make up to meet with you on a different day.
It’s noteworthy to mention that there are all sorts of personality types. For her, it might be enough to know she has a guy in her life, and she does not need to see you as much. In marriages, there are situations where one spouse calls the other throughout the day, and the spouse who is of a different nature might find it annoying or even intrusive. So, in essence, what’s going on in your circumstance may just be a manifestation of how she lives her life by keeping to herself more than you are comfortable with. On the other hand, you need to make sure that the way she feels about you is in sync with the way you feel about her.
When you do communicate with one another, does she treat you in ways that make you feel appreciated? I understand that she is not free with compliments, and there are people like that. Does she ever praise you of her own volition? Not every person has the nature to be complimentary, but if you are that type of person, and there is minimal reciprocation, it can leave you feeling unfulfilled.
I am not happy to hear that she complains about you behind your back. Not that it would be a good thing to tell you that you are needy to your face, seeing that your concerns are valid, but at least there would be communication between both of you. You learned that confidentiality is not her strong trait! Who else has your girlfriend complained to about you?
The woman you are in a relationship with picks up on the fact that you want to spend more time with her, in whatever capacity is available right now. Even if she privately believes that you’re being needy, in a healthy relationship the mindset needs to be that “we” have a problem that needs to be addressed. Relationships are not about contests, who is wrong more often, or a war that needs to be won.
Let’s put everything aside for a bit and focus on you and how you relate to somebody you are dating, namely the “neediness” aspect. Everyone needs something from a relationship, and every person needs to feel that he or she can lean on the person who is most significant in his or her life. The fact that you are now more limited in seeing each other in person should create a feeling of absence in both your lives. You are evidently feeling it, while she is not. Additionally, you might even crave more emotional support because of it, and possibly other changes may be going on in your life because of COVID. Who else should you turn to if not the person you are dating? It is unsettling to think that a phone call will turn her off or that she might run to her friend and have a philosophical discussion about you.
Had life continued in the way you knew it before COVID, is this woman the type of person to whom you can turn in times of stress? You make no mention about your age, but I’m sure you know that different situations come up in life where it is normal that a spouse may need more support and handholding. And it should be a given that you should each be able to receive that from the other without feeling judged.
There are times when people see things through their eyes only, because when people are so caught up in believing that they are not being treated right, it can cause their vision to be mentally obscured. Is it possible that when you call her, you like to spend a long time on the phone? There are people who hate talking on the phone, except to say what they need to say and get off as soon as possible. The same thing with texting. There are those who can text with somebody for hours, and then there are people who refuse to even bother responding in full sentences. If such is her personality, there is something to work with here. However, if you will always feel that you are the giver, while never receiving from the relationship, you might always feel disappointment and emptiness.
Now let’s look at it from her perspective. When you are not communicating with her, what is she doing? You made it a point to tell me that there is no other guy in her life right now. Did you ever suspect that there might be? Are you trying to reassure yourself that she is being faithful to the relationship? If she has family, school, work, or other important obligations, then it is on you to be understanding that she may not have as much emotional reserve to give you what you may need.
You say that sometimes she does not answer till later on. Many people are now working or “attending school” from home. Being on the phone or even looking at one’s phone can be distracting, and she may turn it off or put it away. It could be that when she is done with her day, she will respond in the way her energy allows for it. It is interesting to note that I typically hear from women who complain that they want more communication during the day from the men they are in a relationship with. Which begs the question: what does she do on a regular day?
Now that we have laid out various possibilities, reach out to her and tell her exactly what you told me in your letter. Express every concern. But before you do that, arrange for a time to have that discussion. You mention that you sometimes get together with proper social distancing. It is preferable to have that conversation in person. Heavy conversations by text can be misinterpreted, with disastrous results. When you talk to her, please do not be accusatory. Avoid words like “you never” or “why do you do that?” Nobody wants to feel on the defense, especially with the person he or she is dating. Present your concerns not in a manner that you want her to change, but rather from the angle of how you can make it feel more comfortable for her.
What stands out in my mind is that you have known her for a long time and you are included in her family, but you made no reference to having discussed marriage. Is it possible that she is not feeling that you are serious about marriage, and she is dealing with unresolved conflicts and her way of responding to her feelings is by not always being available to you? Or is it that you want to see changes in her before marriage becomes a topic for you?
The very first thing I would like you do is to contact her ASAP and have that conversation. Make her feel comfortable to tell you what’s on her mind. Respect any complaint she may have. It might come down to people having different ways of expressing needs or feeling fulfilled. That can be resolved by meeting halfway. You can tell her that it means a lot to you to hear her voice more often, and she may be able to work something out with you that will bring you more satisfaction in the relationship.
You will also need to be prepared for the possibility that things are not going well at all, or that she is not as warm to you as you would like. If you cannot live with that, then you may need to reassess the relationship and whether this is the person you will want to be with in the long term.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.