Dear Em & Lo,
I have been married and divorced and only just started to date again. Been with this guy for 8 months now. No problems with him lying, cheating, etc. Started off great. Going out, spending time with each other. But of recent months the spending time with each other has dwindled. Barely go to cinema, clubs, or any kind of outings. He still drops and picks me up from work, takes me to classes, is still very affectionate and introduces me as his girlfriend. But we go do errands together and that’s that!
He seems to think that with all those things I just mentioned, there is enough time spent with me. During the week he’s tired from work, which I get. But every weekend he goes fishing with his buddies in the morning and at nights he goes and plays poker.
I don’t mind him having his friends. But if I ask to go movies or somewhere his response is, “I’m busy,” or he has a problem with a place. Ask him for alternatives and his answer is always “home.” I feel like I am 50 yrs old — and I have “been there done that,” so it’s not necessary anymore. What should I do?
Like you said, you’ve been there, done that. Which means that you know this kind of situation only gets worse as the years go on. If he’s like this after eight months — that’s barely out of the honeymoon phase! — then imagine what it’s going to be like after eight years. Unless you step in.
This guy seems to have misunderstood the whole idea of “being yourself” around a long-term, serious partner. Sure, one of the best parts of monogamy is not having to put on a show and impress someone 24-7… but that doesn’t mean you get to treat your partner like a pet (albeit a beloved pet).
Explain to your partner that you need at least one date a week (or however often you can live with). Explain that errands do not count, nor does your daily commute. And staying home only counts if you guys make it special in some way — eating Chinese take-out off the best china, trying out a new couples’ sex toy together, etc. (For the record, you should also make an effort to make “home dates” special, too.) Explain that being comfortable with each other is only one part of a long-term relationship — and compromise is another. If he’s not familiar with the term “compromise,” then offer him up this example: Sometimes Saturday nights mean poker with the guys, and sometimes they mean a date.
We’d recommend avoiding the slightly sarcastic, condescending tone we’re using here (sorry, occupational hazard). Your guy sounds like he has the potential to be one of the good ones, and thus he deserves a chance to get things right. After all, he’s affectionate, he drives you to and from work, he doesn’t lie or cheat, and he’s clearly not commitment-shy. In fact, he’s the opposite of a commitment-phobe — he leap-frogged directly to the kind of relationship you end up in after decades of marriage together!
If your boyfriend listens and changes his behavior accordingly, then make sure he receives positive reinforcement for this. (And we don’t necessarily mean oral sex! We just mean, he should be able to see how actually dating your partner improves a relationship.) And if he doesn’t? Then we guess he’s going to have a lot more time to play poker in his future. After all, you’ve got some movies to catch up on… with someone else.
Em & Lo