Helpless in Seattle


Dear Dharma,

After nearly 3 years together, my girlfriend just got a new job and is moving an hour away. The plan was for me to move down there after a transition period with my job.  We are both mid-thirties and very much in love.

The first year or so we didn’t have a lot of time together as both our jobs were quite demanding, and our schedules didn’t mesh well.  We got together maybe once or twice a week but talked all the time.  We have been spending a lot of time together this past year due to a break in our schedules.  Also, I have been off work for a couple months due to a minor surgery and she was driving me to appointments, helping out with chores a few times a week.

She came over two days ago and said we needed to talk. She is having misgivings about moving in together with me in a new city.

She said we are too much alike (which I thought was a good thing!) in that we are both on the anxious side, not paranoid, but I like to be cautious – yes I think sometimes people are oblivious to obvious dangerous situations.  I can’t help it if I am more perceptive than most people about these things. She says she needs someone who is a calming influence, not someone who would feed her anxiety.  She was almost crying when she talked about it, but said she didn’t have a decision made yet.

The relationship after 3 years is at a point where moving in together is pretty much the next step. She doesn’t know if she wants to try or to just move on.  I don’t know what to do. We are talking again soon and I just feel so sad and helpless. How can I convince her to move on with me?

Helpless in Seattle

Dear Helpless,

So I’m kind of on the fence here, cuz I find myself agreeing with the both of you on some level.

I agree with you when you say that after 3 years, moving in together is pretty much the next step.  That’s not an unrealistic timeline at all – in fact, it’s kind of the skinny end of the bell curve, non?

However, I agree with your girlfriend for pumping on the brakes when she is having misgivings about moving in – something just isn’t working for her, and seriously, kudos to her for speaking up now instead of 6 months from now when all the unpacking is done and the pictures are on the wall.  I know you’re on the wrong side of this to like that philosophy, but more people should follow their instincts, trust their gut, and not move ahead with something when it doesn’t feel right, non?

You respecting this notion will go so much further than trying to convince her that you’re right and she’s wrong.  Trust me, I’m a woman, I know how this works.

And is this a case of can’t see the trees/forest?  I’m wondering if you see anything valid about what her concerns are…

I do.  She recognizes she struggles with anxiety and it sounds like she wants to break free of those chains and start experiencing life without all the cautionary tales and warnings and fear.

You, on the other hand, also recognize she struggles with anxiety, but see your own similar behaviours as simple common sense.  What you are not seeing is that for her, your struggles with anxiety are compounding hers and that this is restricting her – and you don’t even recognize that’s the role you are playing.  You’re holding her back.

I’m not hearing you say there’s anything you would want to change about yourself in order to make this relationship work.  And maybe you shouldn’t have to if you’re perfectly fine living within these fear defined boundaries.  And then maybe you have to consider that you are not as well suited for each other as you thought, because it sounds to me like she doesn’t want to live that way anymore.

I also don’t know if I think it’s as black and white as you’ve portrayed here.  If you don’t move in together now, and even if she moves an hour away, does that have to mean the relationship is kaput?

But I guess continuing to do the same thing for the next 3 years is kind of futile, isn’t it… If nothing changes, then nothing’s going to change, right?  Great, now I’m arguing with myself.  Grrr…

I recognize that certain personality traits or conditions aren’t necessarily easy to change, but at a certain level it comes down to choices, doesn’t it?

I guess it’s up to you to entertain the possibility of doing something differently, or risk losing this relationship.  If the thought of you or your girlfriend occasionally throwing caution to the wind and living a life that is a bit more carefree leaves you shuddering with trepidation, then finding a reputable counsellor to work through this might be a better use of your money over a moving truck.




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1 Comment

  • gemma471 says:

    \sounds like the guy is only thinking of what will work for him. he’s not understanding her concerns are important – and isn’t it in his best interest to be in a healthy relationship, instead of this co-dependent, let’s keep each other scared thing? maybe thats it – maybe he’s hiding behind this relationshp so he doesn’t have to own up to an anxiety problem.

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