Carolyn Hax is away. In her absence, we are offering columns from her archive.
Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend is quite a flirt and an all-around fun guy. When I feel good and comfortable in the company we’re keeping, this personality trait does not bother me.
But other times, I might feel left out or ignored (or that his behavior is too attentive to someone else), and this makes me seriously question whether I want to be with him.
It’s hard for me to articulate this to him – mainly because I don’t know if I’m being needy or if my concerns are valid. How much is too much attention to another person when you’re in a committed relationship?
Next time you’re out with him and feeling ignored, try – just as your own private experiment – ignoring him. Not as a manipulative or spiteful ploy, but instead as a resourceful adaptation. Amuse yourself, knowing it’s up to you alone whether you have a good time.
If your boyfriend is a jerk, if you’re needy, or if you’re both decent people who are ill-suited to each other, then your experiment won’t bring about any magic changes. You’ll still feel bad when you’re out with him in a crowd.
If, on the other hand, you find yourself enjoying the dual benefits of flying solo and having a steady companion, then you might be among the people whose yin-yang relationships suit them just fine. The experiment gives you a chance to see whether you’re able to change your perspective, or whether you’re too preoccupied with his actions to enjoy yourself.
Carolyn: I have attempted that – though I will try again (with a more resourceful attitude versus spiteful) because I do want to help the relationship. I have noticed that even though I entertain myself, I still feel sick when he’s chatting up some other lady.
For what it’s worth, I am gregarious around people I know, which is probably why I’m OK in that situation. Around people I don’t know however, I clam up and get anxious.
But wow, though. If I am just never going to be comfortable with a gregarious man, how will that come off when we break up? “I love you, but you’re too nice to other people.” Ha.
No no no, it’s just “I love you, but we move at different speeds.” If in fact you do.
Obviously there’s no such thing as a perfect match, but don’t be afraid to hold out for someone who complements your temperament, and who takes care of you as well as you take care of him.
A gregarious “A” can be part of a happy couple with the introverted “B,” provided both A and B ungrudgingly go out of their way to make the other comfortable without compromising themselves so much that they drop from emotional exhaustion.
But if you’re going out of your way to support his way of socializing, and he’s not going out of his way to support yours, then that creates the kind of mismatch that doesn’t work. Nothing to apologize for, because nobody’s “wrong” – it’s just two people who want different things.
By the way – you say on your good days, his outgoing nature “does not bother me.” So you never actually like it? That may be your answer right there.
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