Hax: Defining ‘normal’ in relationship

The Washington PostDecember 10, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’m 29, female, in the first healthy, reciprocated romantic relationship of my life. I’ve been in my current relationship for two and a half years, and I feel incredibly lucky to be with my boyfriend. I feel safe and loved, and we moved in together.

The problem is that, without any substantial history to refer to, I’m constantly wondering if certain things are omens, or totally normal, or byproducts of my personality, or none of the above. Things like, sometimes he annoys the crap out of me, sometimes I want to be alone and sometimes I’m not attracted to him at all.

I use something you wrote once: I think, do I want to keep seeing him? The answer is almost always yes. Is that enough to ask?

MARYLAND

I’d suggest getting more specific, asking yourself: How have I addressed what bothers me? For example, when he annoys you and you want to be alone, are you:

(1) Mentally backtracking to see whether there are any common denominators, like too much noise or togetherness? Are there ways to anticipate and even pre-empt crabby spells?

(2) Building some breathing room into your life together? Are you able to say, “I need to be alone for a bit, thanks,” without touching off a dreary conversation about whether you really love him?

(3) Checking occasionally, once you have these pressure-release valves working, to make sure you still feel like you, and aren’t pretzeling yourself just to make this work?

That’s really the unifying thread — feeling like a good, comfortable version of yourself. If you can find and remain in that comfort spot through any doubts about your relationship, then that’s the kind of normal you’re after.

Re: Maryland: I’m an introvert and sometimes I retreat into my so-called “bubble” and recharge. This isn’t a bad sign for my relationship; it just means we are self-aware. Communicating what you need or find particularly “annoying” is part of a healthy relationship.

ANONYMOUS

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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