When Phillip and I started dating, I thought we were an unlikely pair, like the jock and the basket case from The Breakfast Club. He liked heavy metal music, while I liked oldies but goodies. He loved depressing sci-fi movies that left you wanting to cry in a corner, while I liked movies that generally promised a happy ending. And some of his habits (such as his addictive personality and sporadic texting style) made me worry that our relationship was going to crash and burn like one of his favorite post-apocalyptic movies.
While I was sometimes really judgmental about the things that made him imperfectly human, one of his habits that made me think, “Okay, what the actual fuck?!” was when he wanted to hang out with his childhood friends after most work shifts.
Let me explain. Sometimes he’d invite me to hang out with them (combining “girlfriend time” with “friend time,” as an efficiently-minded engineer might do), sometimes not. Some of these friends seemed okay with having me around, and some of them seemed threatened because I was smart and opinionated. But his sausage fests eventually became so routine that our one-on-one time started to feel like a bygone era.
Some women might be okay with this setup, but I was not. It seemed like a malnourished, unbalanced platform for growing a rock-solid relationship. The seedlings of our love were receiving Brawndo instead of water (Idiocracy reference).
It’s hard to admit, even for something so long ago, but I felt anxious and insecure because I thought he wasn’t prioritizing our budding relationship like he would work and family (and friends). I felt sidelined, like an underperforming football player. I was also tired of feeling like the unpopular girlfriend in a stadium of disapproving friends.
Looking back, I understand now that he simply had a little growing up to do (as did I) and was not always conscious of his behavior. Moreover, I learned from a dating coach that I could do what was in my control to regain my independence, and those actions would eventually reveal whether or not he thought I was worth more time in his book.
So, what did I do? Without scolding him, womanplaining, or giving him the silent treatment, I decided to show him that, if you’re with me, “friends” and “girlfriend” are sold separately.
How did I do it? The next time he told me he was going to go to his friend’s house and invited me to join, I simply said, “No thanks, I’ll do my own thing today. Have fun.” If he wanted to spend time with me, then I would be “over here.” If not, fine; I’m sure other people (including other eligible men) would want to hang out, or I could enjoy “me” time.
The next time he asked, I said roughly the same thing.
At some point, he must have realized that I was worth keeping around and he could lose me if we didn’t spend quality time together. The unbalanced scale started tipping toward the “girlfriend” side, probably since that side came with confidence, intelligence, purpose, and fewer dumb wrestling matches.
It doesn’t always work out that way; as painful as it sounds, sometimes men realize they don’t want to pursue you, and that’s okay. You move on to someone who thinks you’re worth it, L’Oréal style. And he’ll know you’re worth it if you know you’re worth it.
Moreover, every relationship is different, which means that if you’re seeing someone who’s (unintentionally) putting you on the back burner, you can approach it differently than I did and still get a favorable result. Trust your gut and get answers your way.
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