Can I Ask For Advice?Any tips for re-gaining control of my relationship?
Hi, I was wondering if I could ask for some advice about being more assertive and taking control of my relationship. I'm the stereotypical 'nice' partner and it drives my girlfriend nuts - she wants to be feel more challenged by me but I'm stuck in a rut and don't know where to start.
I'm a lesbian and I've been in a relationship with my girlfriend for almost a year. There's a 17 year age-gap - I'm 25 and she is 42 - which I don't have a problem with but my girlfriend is concerned that people think she's a pervert or something. She is slowly introducing me to her family, which is great, but as far as her colleagues are concerned, I don't exist.
Anyway, I liked this woman for months before I plucked up the courage to tell her. The likelihood of us getting together was pretty much nil so I was so happy that we were together but also felt nervous and panicked that I'd do something wrong, annoy her or something bad would happen and the relationship would end. I made a monumental mistake. I allowed her to take complete control of the relationship. Whenever she asked me what I wanted, I said the fatal line 'I don't mind/what would you like to do/whatever you like' to make absolutely sure that we were doing the things that made her happy. I didn't have the confidence to assert myself and tell her what I wanted in fear of choosing an activity that she wouldn't enjoy. She told me she wanted me to be more assertive and stop saying 'I don't mind'. I knew how this could get annoying, but once I was in the habit, I found it kind of hard to stop.
I worked on it and eventually did stop saying 'I don't mind' all the time. I started to make some decisions and negotiate things with her. My confidence increased a little bit and she seemed happier. All of a sudden though, out of the blue, she ended the relationship. She told me that she was struggling too much with the age-difference and what people might think, as well as being under pressure from work. Just before we broke up, she was promoted and told me because of her work schedule and increased tiredness, she could only see me at weekends. I found it really difficult and thought it was because she didn't want to see me, but I didn't kick up a fuss. Because I didn't believe her right away, she accused me of being unsupportive and listed this as a reason for breaking up...even though I'd given her the space she asked for?!
I was absolutely devastated, I loved her so much and felt an overwhelming sense of rejection. While I was upset, I didn't beg or plead for her to reconsider. I didn't bombard her with calls or texts either. She wanted to meet for dinner within a week of breaking up but I didn't want to be at her disposal, so I refused and said I'd be in touch when I felt ready to see her again. We didn't see each other for 3 weeks, though she continued to text and we spoke on the phone a few times. We had some heated conversations as well as some constructive ones. I didn't waste any time, I went out on 4 dates with other women. After our second post-break-up meeting, she asked if we could rekindle the relationship. I attribute that to giving her the space to work out her issues and not bombarding her as well as seeing other people. I think it re-ignited her interest in me, the 'thrill of the chase'.
We've been getting on well for the past 5 months, though because of her work schedule, I can only see her at weekends. I fit my life around her schedule while she makes no effort to work around mine. This is the only thing that annoys me, I'm angry with myself for allowing myself to be walked all over in terms of schedules. I want her to make an effort to see me once in a while, but I know if I said I wanted to see her on a weeknight she would say no and that I wasn't respecting her space. I feel like I can't win. I either stick to her schedule or I don't see her at all.
3 weeks ago she told me she thought we'd entered a new phase of comfort and closeness in our relationship which made me feel great. Then 2 weeks ago she began having a rough ride at work again and suddenly she's not so comfortable after all. She told me she doesn't like it when I try to please her. This past Easter weekend I bought her an Easter gift (she doesn't like chocolate so I bought her a new hairdryer because she needed one) and prepared a special Easter morning breakfast. She interpreted this as me trying too hard to please her and privately, it made her cry. I was completely baffled...I didn't do anything wrong, I just wanted us to have a nice weekend and show her that I cared...but it has left a gulf between us. We discussed it at length. We mutually agreed to break up and remain friends. I wanted to leave but it was late at night, so she asked me to go to bed with her for hugs. I didn't want to lower myself to going back to bed with her literally 2 hours after we had broken up, but a part of me didn't want to let it go. I went to bed with her that night. We didn't have sex but she insisted on cuddling me and kissing me as if we were still together. She also kept saying 'remember the night we first kissed....but perhaps we're better off being friends'. I told her she was confusing me with the conflicting words and actions. Did she want to break up or did she want to kiss me?
The following morning we discussed it again and agreed to get back together. It was the shortest break-up in history, but she told me the following:
1) She wants me to be more assertive
2) She wants me to take more control
3) She wants me to stop trying to please her
4) She wants me to challenge her more intellectually and doesn't feel that I can because I'm 17 years her junior (I find this hugely patronising)
5) She wants us to debate, she wants me to disagree with her and even argue occasionally. Huh?!
I know I need to challenge her more but I'm so used to trying not to upset her that I don't feel confident enough. I can try not to please her by not trying to make things special (no gifts, no special meals etc) but I've no idea what practical things I can do to take more control and stop letting her assume authority on schedules etc. How can I start to call the shots like she wants me to without being accused of not respecting her space or being unsupportive? Any tips?
A friend suggested the following tips to re-ignite the thrill of the chase:
1) Don't reply to texts for at least an hour
2) Take her calls but occasionally cut them short by claiming to be busy (i.e giving out the message that she's not the priority/not trying to please her by re-arranging my plans to take her call)
3) Tell her I can't meet her schedule and say 'these are my plans for the weekend...it's up to you if you can find a way to join me'
These tips feel a bit like mind-games but I don't know what else to do. I feel like emotionally I understand what I did to do but I can't think of any practical ways to do it that aren't like mind-games. Have people used these methods and did they work? What would other people suggest?
Thank you so much for reading - I know this was a severely loooooooooooong post ;/