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Question: My girlfriend and I used to spend a lot of time together, but over the last few months she has spent more and more time with her friends or pursuing interests on her own. We have had several arguments about this. Am I being unrealistic about objecting to this? We’ve been together for two years and she is a great person. She says she loves me and I don’t want to lose her but I am feeling sidelined and less important to her than I used to be.

Answer: Your question is a good one. How much of our partner’s time and energy do we have a right to? At this   point in your commitment, you want more of her than she is up for. This is an imbalance that will need some fine tuning.

It is fairly common for people to spend a lot of time together early in their relationship. The infatuation is fueled by chemistry and a belief that you are more loving and more lovable than you had imagined. This wears off in about six months as reality begins to claw away at the rose-coloured glasses.

The greatest risk in being part of a couple is the risk of losing your individuality. Holding onto that individuality is critical to the development of a solid relationship. When you are part of a close twosome, it can be hard to define yourself as separate from the other. Your thoughts, ideas, beliefs and values can be eroded by the pressure for togetherness. One is reminded of the old adage, “When the two become one, what one will they be?”

Do you think that it is possible that you girlfriend is simply trying to re-establish the network of friendships and interests that kept her alive and vital before the two of you hooked up? If so, this may be a healthy move for your relationship. People need to take responsibility for keeping their lives interesting and it may be that your girlfriend is missing the stimulation of a larger social network. In addition, people come out of their family experience with different levels of comfort around togetherness. Some people like more and some less. These are differences that need to be discussed. You may be taking all of this more personally than you need to.

In any event, pressuring your girlfriend to spend more time with you is the wrong move. You run the risk of being seen as jealous and controlling. Why not put some energy into developing some of your own interests and connections outside of the relationship. This might reduce your need for your girlfriend’s attention and at the same time make you more interesting and attractive to be around. People make the mistake of depending on their relationship for more than it can deliver. Just as your assets are more secure if your portfolio is diversified, your relationship is more secure if your interests are diversified. Don’t put all of your eggs in your girlfriend’s basket. Whatever is up with the two of you, you need to have a calm conversation about what is going on. This takes a little courage and a lot of maturity. I think you are both playing a part in the problem and if you can be as honest and as open as you were when you first met, you may be able to turn things around. Good luck and keep it real.

Margaret-Anne Speak, M.A., C.C.C., works with couples, individuals and families from a Bowen Family Systems perspective at Family Services of the North Shore. Questions? Write This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 604-988-5281.