‘I’ve been unhappy in my relationship for a long time’ (Picture: Neil Webb/Metro)
Welcome back to The Sex Column, our weekly series that sees experts advise daters struggling in the world of love and romance.
Today we’re helping out a woman who, like so many of us, struggles with loneliness.
After moving for her man’s job, she’s struggled to make friends in the area.
That’s tricky in itself, but she also feels ‘alone and invisible’ when she’s with her partner, and isn’t sure he’s fully committed.
What should she do?
‘I’ve been unhappy in my relationship for a long time and I finally told my partner that I feel ignored and lonely and that it isn’t working for me.
‘He was surprised and his immediate response was to book a restaurant for dinner.
‘A few years ago we moved for his job and he became close with his work friends and has a social life. I haven’t made the same connections, which is not his fault, but I spend a lot of time alone and feel invisible when we are together, which was an issue early on.
‘I’m not trying to blame him, I’ve just never felt that he’s all-in.
‘We had a long emotional conversation and he says he would do anything to make it work but he seems incapable of genuinely caring about how I am.
‘Can someone change that?‘
What the experts say…
If he really is incapable of genuinely caring then no, you can’t change that. But is that simply despair talking?
‘The reaction you describe doesn’t sound uncaring,’ says James McConnachie. ‘He did something to try to make you feel less ignored and took the time to have a serious talk.’
Perhaps you both have very different expectations and needs.
‘You feel ignored, lonely, lacking connection, invisible and unable to gain his attention,’ says Rupert Smith. ‘He, on the other hand, is out and about, gregarious and apparently unaware of what’s happening right under his nose.
‘It’s the old story of the anxious in pursuit of the avoidant, and that difference in attachment style may be what attracted you to each other in the first place.’
We tend to be drawn towards partners who reiterate the relationships we have come to expect based on our earliest years. If you wish to stay together you both should become aware of, and manage to move beyond, that original dynamic — perhaps with couples therapy to ease you through this process.
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‘For this to work, you should both commit to change,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘You need to seek a fulfilling life away from the house and he needs to prioritise time and attention for you.’
If you feel lonely, seek out friends, not just your partner. If you feel ignored, organise something you can do together.
‘If you feel invisible, do something that fills you with purpose or pleasure, on your own account,’ says McConnachie. ‘Sometimes people feel invisible because their partner isn’t seeing them, sometimes it’s because they’re not really seeing themselves. Feeling invisible is corrosive but the cure might lie within.’
Of course, the answer could also be that this relationship is corrosive.
‘At the end of the day, if you have never been convinced that he is entirely for and with you then maybe now is the time to finish the relationship,’ says Rudkin.
Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor
James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)
Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychology
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