Hax: Constant pressure is not romantic

The Washington PostMarch 12, 2014 

Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend of three months constantly wants to be together. We’re still in high school, and see each other there every day. I appreciate that he likes hanging out with me so much, and I love hanging out with him. But he’s insistent on me being with him whenever it’s remotely possible. I sometimes feel that I need a break.

When he’s asking me to procrastinate on schoolwork, or skimp on practice for an upcoming audition, I start to put my foot down, but it’s difficult. He argues and begs to squeeze a few minutes (hours, a whole day) out of my schedule.

Am I avoiding him, or giving him too little time? Should I drop a few activities to be with him more? And how can I say “no” without being made to feel guilty every time?

HARRIED SALLY

No. 3, easy: Date someone who won’t pressure you. Or, stop negotiating for an hour after you say no.

Nos. 1 and 2 are your call, but I can connect your letter’s dots for you: Yes, you’re avoiding him somewhat (understandably — he’s being a pest); and no, you shouldn’t “drop a few activities,” because if you really wanted to you’d be doing it, not asking me.

Hectoring someone for togetherness is not romantic. It’s needy, cloying, disrespectful. While it may initially be flattering to have someone apparently want you so so badly, the constant pressure to change your decisions tends to pry out some legitimate questions about the meaning of “you.” If he’s trying to take you away from everything else you care about — things you choose and work hard toward — then does he really like you? Or just your physical presence? Possessiveness, after all, is an abuse precursor.

Time to learn the art of drawing and respecting lines: (1) Decide what you feel comfortable doing; (2) Say yes to things within your lines and no to things beyond them; (3) Trust that if you’re right for each other, then you’ll both be either comfortable with these limits or open to compromise without pressure or guilt.

(4) Walk away from any insisting/arguing/begging/guilt-tripping, every time.

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

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