Dear Dr. Romance:
I have been with my partner for two years, and we have a pretty good relationship, except for one thing. He's a softball nut! He practices twice a week and plays a game almost every weekend. It isn’t just for the summer, either. Even when there is no official season happening, he still gets together with his softball teammates, and they practice or do something else.
I hate softball! I don't mind going to a game once in a while, but I don’t like it all the time. I want to go to theatre, movies, concerts, etc. How can I get him to give up softball and do things I want to do?
DON'T TAKE ME TO THE BALL GAME
Dear Dr. Romance:
My partner is an athlete in training who takes very long, fast bike rides several times a week. Recently, he has been taking these rides with another man, rather than alone, and I'm jealous. I have a physical handicap, and cannot ride at his pace, so I can't go with him.
We have a very nice relationship, and I'm very happy, except for this problem. How can I get him to stop taking these rides with his "friend"?
Dear Dr. Romance:
It's been another bad Saturday. I love the beach, and my partner doesn't. We go, and she complains about the heat, the sand on the blanket, she's restless, she wants to go home before I do, she doesn't want to read the book she brought, and on and on until I give up and go home.
I love this woman most of the time, but after a day at the beach I never want to see her again! This wears off after a while, but it’s taking longer and longer for me to forgive her. I’m real tired of it!
I've even suggested she do something else, and let me go to the beach alone for a couple of hours, but she doesn't want to. What can I do?
FRUSTRATED AT THE BEACH
These are problems I hear constantly. Where did we all get the idea that partners are conjoined twins? None of you claims to be joined to your partner at the hip.
So much damage is done when you’re together only because you don’t want to be alone. The appropriate reason for partners to be together is because they want to. That includes enjoying each other and whatever activity you are doing. The minute one of you begins to feel you’re together because you have to be, the problems begin. That's when someone begins to feel trapped, and to push for space. If there's no understanding of the need for space, hurt feelings result, and you're off and running.
It is not reasonable or advisable to ask your partner to give up an important or favorite activity because you don’t like it, or because you can't join in. That's life. Learn to handle it. Before long, you may be surprised to find out that you actually enjoy your separate time, and you'll also notice that your time together is enhanced by the separation.
If you're the one with the favorite activity, firmly and gently insist on your right to do it alone. "Gentle Persistence" will show you how. If your partner has the activity, and you don’t like it, he or she should go without you. Now, here’s the hard part. Your partner may want company for this favorite activity. Yes, you must deal with that, too. Your partner’s companion in sports or hobbies is his/her friend, not your rival. Friends are a necessary support system to every relationship.
If you don't trust your partner, that is a separate and important issue, calling for counseling. Either your insecurity or your partner's integrity (or both) need help. Learning to make realistic, honest agreements will solve this problem. "Couples Can Cooperate for Success" will show you how to do that.
If you feel left out, then you need activities and companions of your own. I recommend that you find some resources to meet people who are in relationships and not a threat to your own.
These people are interested in networking to support your relationship and their own, and they have a busy calendar which can help you fill the empty spaces in your life. Having separate activities can take a tremendous amount of pressure off a relationship.
One caution: when you have a separate activity from your partner, it's important that your partner feel invited to join in from time to time. If you're doing something your partner cannot join, then arrange occasional social gatherings with the other persons involved. Have brunch, lunch, a party or a picnic with your friends and your partner. This makes it clear that it's the activity that is separate, and that you are not sneaking or hiding.
If the activity would be open, but your partner's attitude makes things difficult, include your partner occasionally anyway. Since you get to do what you want most of the time, accommodating your partner occasionally won't be too hard, and it will keep everything in perspective.
It's not only OK, it's healthy to have different activities and different friends as well as what you share. Just remember to do it with love and consideration. "Handling the Green-Eyed Monster" will give you more information about handling jealousy. How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free 4th Edition will help you fix these problems and have a happier relationship.
For low-cost counseling, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org