Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

I’m in a year and a half relationship with a man who is ten years older than me. I love him. He is a reserved guy who is slowly opening up to me. But I wish he would open more. It bothers me he does stuff like go with his friends without telling me. I feel like he doesn’t want to share his life with me. When I ask him about it, he says it’s not important.

Another thing is he isn’t a good texter. When I tell him I want him to message more, he says he’ll try, does so for a week, then stops. It’s frustrating. He also never lets me sleep over at his house because he thinks it’s a big step, and he feels it’s too soon. I told him I want to sleep over because it’s a 45-minute drive to his house, so it would be convenient for me to stay just one night, but he said no. Is the decline reasonable? He is awesome at making me feel supported, and he makes me feel safe. It just bothers me. I also have past trauma that I think affects the relationship, especially how I handle little things, and it makes me sad because I don’t know how to fix it. Help!

Signed Young and Confused

Dear Young and Confused,

I don't want to jump to conclusions, but I have to be upfront: something seems fishy. I wonder why he is so closed off from you, considering you've been dating for a year and a half. It’s weird for him to say you can never sleep over. It’s not cool that he writes off your concerns as unimportant. All of this is, frankly, not okay.

I still have tips for you on managing your concerns, but I’d caution you to look into this guy further. Maybe Google his name or do a background check — better to be safe than sorry. Perhaps nothing will come up, but better to know now than later.

Circling back to why you wrote in: it sounds like this guy is keeping you at arm’s distance. A relationship can never thrive if you’re not vulnerable and sharing intimate parts of yourself. What’s more, if you bring up your concerns and he doesn't meet you in the middle, then is that even a relationship?

Take the sleeping over situation as an example. Maybe he values his personal space and likes waking up alone. But at the cost of your safety, since you have to drive 45 minutes home at night? It shouldn’t be his way or the highway (literally).

Bring up that topic again to him. Describe how it makes you feel. If he’s still hesitant, ask him to make a plan with you. Even if that looks like you only spending one night a week, that would still be a middle ground. Both people in the relationship have to feel comfortable, and you can't stay shut out from his life forever.

You also mentioned that you've experienced trauma in the past. Perhaps your partner's actions are triggering your trauma and affecting your relationship. Healing from trauma doesn't happen overnight. No matter how much you want to change, you won’t be able to if your partner keeps acting in unhealthy ways that trigger you (like being super secretive).

Think about what's triggering your trauma. Is it your own thoughts, actions and beliefs? Or is it your partner's responses to your concerns? If it’s the latter, ask yourself if his responses are rooted in genuine concern, patience, validation of your feelings, and empathy. For example: if you bring up to him that not texting you for days makes you feel anxious, and he acts like that’s irrational, then, of course, you’re going to feel like a problem, even though you’re not.

On your own time, there are a few ways to move through your emotions and feel more secure in your love life. Try journaling, reading more about trauma healing, learning about attachment styles, and talking to people you trust who are emotionally mature.

Remember: it’s great to want personal growth and the best for your relationship. But you have to first determine if you’re holding yourself back from that or your partner is. I’m sure this isn’t the reply you wanted to hear, but I hope it helps you in the long run.

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