Q.I am in a relationship with “Matt” that, admittedly, is my first serious relationship. We are both in our early 30s, and when we met a couple of years ago, our relationship moved very quickly and we moved in together within a couple of months. We love each other and we enjoy a lot of the same things, but there is one thing that is starting to wear on me a little. I am curious to know if this is normal and I need to just get over it, or if I should be upset enough to move on. Sometimes I feel that the thought of being the only single person left in a group of mostly coupled- off family and friends might be urging me to force this along. (I hope I didn’t just answer my own question.)
Anyway, to the issue, I am much more social than he is. I have a larger group of friends and family who are very close and try to see each other at least a couple of times a month. In the beginning of our relationship, Matt would fairly willingly tag along to my events, but after we moved in together, things seemed to change. He wouldn’t be so willing to accompany me to my friend- and/or family-oriented events. Now, it’s often me showing up alone and having to give excuses why he isn’t there. And when he is with me, I almost feel tense, like I need to make sure that he is having a good time. Usually we end up leaving early, which is not my style, and occasionally he heads out and I get a ride or take a cab home. It’s to the point that even though they are always polite, I know my friends are almost offended by him not coming.
I go to all of his family- and/or friend-oriented events with no questions asked, and I am nice, friendly, and make sure to chat with all of them. Am I being silly thinking that he should do the same for me, even though there are more events on my side? It’s a struggle for me, because when we are alone, we have a great time, and I know he loves me and I love him, but I also love my friends and want him to enjoy them, too. Also, having a significant other means having companionship and compromising, right? However, I know I am never going to become less social. Am I overreacting?
SOCIALIZED & CONFUSED
A. You’re not overreacting. That tension you describe at social events . . . well, it sounds pretty awful.
You have to talk to him about this problem (obviously), but please start the conversation with some empathy and a compromise. Explain that you understand that he isn’t going to want to tag along for every gathering (especially now that you live together), but that you want him to be present when he’s there. Like, emotionally present. Honestly, if he made the attempt to engage with your community at these events — as in really talked to people and looked happy to be there (and didn’t leave early) — you’d probably be more open to him missing some parties. Quality is more important than quantity here.
Prepare yourself, because he might not understand what you mean when you ask him to be better about engaging with your friends. He might not know how his behavior is perceived by your community, and it’s possible that he’ll get defensive. Please let him talk it out and ask questions. Also: Ask him whether there’s someone in the group he’d prefer to avoid. Tell him that it’s better for you to understand where he’s coming from so that you can make these outings as easy as possible.
If you really want a partner who’s with you at every event with a smile on his face, this guy isn’t for you. But I’m not convinced that you’re the kind of person who always needs a plus-one. I’m confident that if your boyfriend was awesome and engaged during some of your community events, you’d feel happy at all of them, with or without him.
You want to change him. It’s not going to happen.
Was with someone like that once. Ultimately, you can’t change people that much. If he isn’t comfortable socially he likely never will be, and you two are not a good match.
Keep being social, but when you discuss this with him as Meredith suggests, work out some kind of compromise that works for both of you. Pick the events that are most important to you and tell him you’d really like him to come with. BUT if he’s going to be miserable when he does go, I think you have to make a choice — you will always go alone, or you’ll have to break up with him.
While I appreciate your second paragraph of advice, Meredith, I don’t think it takes into account the actual state of being averse to socializing with groups of people. While this man might make small changes and find ways to suck it up when he goes out, I can tell you that the demoralization that comes with that will eventually wear out a relationship.
This was difficult for me when I first started seeing my fiance. He has way more friends than I, and always makes it a point to attend every event if at all possible. I’m more introverted and being social really takes a lot out of me. Have a discussion. Make sure he doesn’t have any weird issues with your friends. See if maybe you go and leave a little early. Like Meredith said, quality over quantity, right?
If you see yourself in 10 years married with two kids and a dog, then YOUR social life is probably going to be much different than it is now. He might be the perfect fit for that lifestyle.
Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com.