Do you think I’ve got my head in the sand?
Do you think I’ve got my head in the sand?

Reader Dilemma: 'I love my girlfriend but she always wants to analyse our relationship - what should I do?

'Sometimes I dread seeing her for fear one of these relationship dissections will start'

Virginia Ironside
Sunday 20 March 2016 13:06
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Dear Virginia

I love my girlfriend, but she’s endlessly trying to discuss our relationship. We’ll go out for dinner and she starts analysing it, and wondering about our motives and what we want out of it and then picks over every little thing in detail. I am finding it exhausting, and also I’m not really interested. I just want to be with her and have a great time. I’ve tried to explain this but she says I’m just trying to avoid the ‘issues’. Do you think I’ve got my head in the sand? Sometimes I dread seeing her for fear one of these relationship dissections will start.

Yours sincerely, Ben

Dear Ben

There are three elements to any relationship. There is you, your girlfriend and the relationship between you. The relationship is what happens when two individual characters get together and rub along together. You could compare you and your girlfriend to two sticks and the relationship as the fire started by rubbing them together, if that doesn’t sound too mad.

But fires are sensitive things, as anyone knows who’s tried to build a bonfire or construct one in a grate out of newspaper and kindling. To start with, the fire needs to be gently coaxed into life. A little extra paper here, an encouraging puff from the bellows. If you blow too hard, it won’t catch alight. It’ll just go out.

Once it’s got going, the best thing to do, apart from chucking the odd log on, is to leave it alone. It’ll roar away on its own. But a sure way to put the fire out is to keep poking it, keep disturbing it and letting air in – to interfere with it.

And that’s what your girlfriend is doing. By trying to maintain it, she’s actually destroying it.

The relationship doesn’t exist of its own accord. It exists because of the people you and your girlfriend are and the good – and bad – times you have together. Focusing on the relationship rather than on you is your girlfriend’s way of refusing to address the real issue, which is you and her. This constant discussion about the relationship must make you feel very left out, doesn’t it? It’s you that your girlfriend should be interested in. The relationship is simply a by-product of your getting together.

Tell her not to focus on the relationship next time she starts, and ask her what exactly she wants from you – what is wrong with you, or what is right with you – not what is wrong with the relationship. Her obsession with this is almost a way of her distancing herself from you. And now, when it sounds as if the relationship is at risk of dying if she continues like this, she’s just hastening its death by continually poking at the embers with a stick.

Tell her that if she wants to discuss the relationship in three months, you’re happy to sit down and chat about it for a couple of hours. But until then, you’ve got to spend the time creating it, having fun, as you say, not interfering with it in this invasive way for so long that it disappears completely.

I wonder if your girlfriend is actually trying to tell you something by this over-analysing? Is this her way of prompting a proposal of marriage? Is she desperate to know what direction the relationship is going in? If so, why doesn’t she come out with it directly?

All you can do is to tell her that, if she goes on like this, it’ll certainly go nowhere.

Readers say...

Head for the hills

I think that most people who are able to take a detached view would pick out the phrase “sometimes I dread seeing her” as a clue to the likely duration of this relationship. You want to be with her and have a great time. It isn’t going to happen. Head for the hills.

Gerry Burrows, Hornsea

It’s the self-help scourge

It’s a modern curse: too much mindfulness, too much self-help, too much narcissism. A predominant belief that we can know all, understand all and control all. Play her Billy Bragg’s “Must I Paint You a Picture”: “The temptation to take the precious things we have apart to see how they work/Must be resisted for they never fit together again.”

D Peregrine, Bristol

She won’t change

Your girlfriend’s behaviour is an ill-disguised ego-trip. Endless dissection of “our relationship” is a ruse to talk about herself. She has found a rationale by which to blame you for not cooperating with her vanity: you are ignoring “the issues”. We cannot change people, so ask yourself if you want to spend any more time and effort on this person. Next time she enquires where your relationship is heading, try answering, “Nowhere if you persist with this faux-analysis.”

Sally, by email

This might help you understand her

When I read your letter, I blushed a little, because your girlfriend’s behaviour reminds me of mine when I was in a relationship a few years back. So it may be helpful for you to know why I behaved as I did. I was madly in love with a man, someone who was not hugely demonstrative, though he said he loved me. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him and was desperate for a sign that he felt the same. He, on the other hand, was happy to take things as they came, to have a “great time”, as you put it. I found it impossible to relax and just enjoy it – it felt like there was so much riding on it. To cut a long story short, it was torture, and eventually I decided to end the relationship as I could see it wasn’t good for me. He was heartbroken! But by then the damage was done. So, I wonder if your girlfriend is feeling insecure and maybe you’re not at a point when you want to commit. You want different things. I hope that helps.

Name and address supplied

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