Ask the Therapist: My boyfriend is drifting away from me

My boyfriend is spending less and less time with me and I don’t know why.

My boyfriend and are about to hit our 5 year mark, getting together when I was 16 and he was 17 and now we’re 21 and 22. We do not make enough money to live together yet however we have talked about marriage in our future, our plans are to move in together in 2016 and marry in 2017. During this time, we both don’t really have any friends except each other seeing as that we lost touch with our high school friends and I don’t go to college, we really only have contact with our family’s and coworkers.

My boyfriend began college to get into guitar building and ever since he did that almost two years ago now, he met this new friend that’s he’s almost all but replaced me with. His friend plays guitar and my boyfriend plays bass so they get together a lot to play music together. However its gotten to the point where my boyfriend spends more of his free time with his new friend than with me.

They have the same classes together, they hang out before class on campus so he leaves me early to go to lunch with his new friend, he goes to his friends house after school until midnight or later even if he has to get up early the next morning. His friend goes over to my boyfriends house too and if I’m there, I have to go sit in the other room so they can practice together.

Since we don’t live together, and we work retail so our schedules are always changing, and because he has school four nights a week, we don’t see a lot of each other as is. Now instead of seeing me, he instead goes and hangs out with this new guy friend.

I told him I feel lonely without him and that I want to see him more and that this is hurting me. But he says I’m “too dependent” on him and that I need to find friends of my own to hang out with, he says because he hasn’t had guy friend to hang out with in 5 years that he wants to hang out with this new guy friend.

For instance, I spent the night last night at my boyfriends house (we still live with our parents, both working part time at minimum wage) and at 9:30 today his friend came over and they have been practicing for almost 5 hours while I have to sit in his bedroom and find something else to occupy myself while they practice. However they were supposed to go to school but they’re both skipping to play more and they’re not only practicing but hanging out and eating lunch and everything without me. I feel like a dog, like my boyfriend put me outside or locked me up in a cage so I cant bother their time together.

I just feel so hurt, like he doesn’t want to spend time with me but only wants to hang out with this new friend instead. I know its healthy to get space from your partner but because we don’t live together, we both have different work schedules, and his free time consists of school as well, we don’t see each other a lot as is. Sometimes I go three or more days a week without seeing him because during the few window openings we could see each other, he instead goes and hangs out with this friend.

Am I just over-reacting? Am I just too dependent on spending my free time with him because I don’t have any friends? I just love him so much and I feel like he’s drifting away from me. I’ve told him how I felt, even today and I sit in his room for who know how much longer until his friend leaves, I told him I think he’s been over long enough and I want to do something with my boyfriend, but no matter how much I tell him that this is hurting me, he just says that I’m too dependent and he keeps doing it anyways. I don’t know what to

Lisa’s thoughts:

Five years is a solid amount of time to be together in a relationship, especially it starting when you were both teenagers!  It’s unusual for relationships to last this long at this stage in life when there is so much growth and transition.  You clearly have had something special.  So essentially, you both were teens and you’re now becoming adults.  You are both learning who you are, what interests you and what your passions are.  Clearly your boyfriend really enjoys his guitar hobby and has found a friend he can engage with in it.  

The problem is now, this has caused a shift in the dynamic between the two of you and the change has been more challenging for you.  I do wonder how you might develop on your own as he does the same.  If you found passions, hobbies or friends to spend time with, I wonder if it would feel like such a significant shift.  There is a delicate balance between the “you, me and we” of a relationship.  It goes really well when there is an alignment in desires in this – the same needs for relationship time vs independent time (doing other things).  Your relationship has shifted.

I’m not hearing your boyfriend tell you he doesn’t want to be with you.  But I am sensing that he is getting increasingly uncomfortable with your need to be with him as much as you were before.  Relationships change, ebb and flow.  Can you adjust to this?  Flexibility and the ability to adapt to change are relationship strengths.  You clearly have a strong foundation but like I said earlier, you two are more unusual in being able to stick together through such a growth period.  That’s great and could mean good things for you but I’m also a little concerned about him not validating your feelings or trying to meet your requests in a more loving way.  

Relationships are a dance, two people creating emotional safety together with open communication and paying attention to each other’s needs.  There is now insecurity for you and he doesn’t seem to be addressing it well.

I suggest you try to carve a life of your own too.  Come and go as he is and evaluate the quality of the relationship when you are together.  It might be that things settle and you continue on.  Or perhaps you will naturally outgrow each other and move in different directions.  The questions is, can you let go a little?  And can he validate your feelings and despite his desire to be with his friend to play the guitar, can he do so in a way that doesn’t feel as threatening?

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Lisa is offering Online Therapy and Counseling services to individuals seeking help with their marriage or relationships. California residents only to adhere to state licensing laws.