Outgrowing my girlfriend

Joey Garcia

I’m 21 years old and my girlfriend is 17. When we began dating last year, she was the most mature girl I had ever met. A genius. Our relationship was flawless. Lately, her mom has been yelling at her and for good reason. My girlfriend spends most of her time typing messages on her wireless pager or talking on the phone. Plus, she leaves all the lights on in the house unnecessarily. When she complains about her mom, I take her mom’s side. My girlfriend says I’m not very understanding. We fight on the phone for hours. Then I’m late to class (I have a stack of warnings from my teacher). My girlfriend also says that I’ve lost my romantic touch. I’ve had school problems, financial problems and family troubles and she hasn’t been very understanding. I’m confused about what to do.

Add this to your curriculum: a study of the difference between love and infatuation. It’s a topic that I’ve been teaching to a group of 14- and 15-year-old girls (I wish someone had clued me in at that age!). In our textbook, Michele McCarthy writes, “Love can’t be measured scientifically, but you can pretty much judge its depth by considering the unselfish caring that’s being shown. That’s the basis for all genuine love. Caring is more than an emotion. It is an attitude expressed in action. So, when you want to know how much love there is, look for evidence of these elements of caring: concern, acceptance, responsibility, integrity, nurturing and giving. Without these characteristics, there is no real love relationship.”

When you met your girlfriend, infatuation probably inspired you to inflate her attributes just enough to counter any nagging doubts about her maturity. After investing time in the relationship, you can see that she is not quite what you believed her to be. Whether because of her age or her personality, she focuses on herself with a ferocity that obscures your feelings (and her mother’s).

However, you aren’t respecting your feelings either. Help yourself transit your financial, family and school troubles with the support of a counselor (many schools offer this service free). You must care enough to reinvest yourself in your education and your future. That way, you’ll have strong internal resources that will inspire you to see whether you need to end this relationship for your own sake.

How do I let go of a relationship but retain faith in it? After several years in a committed relationship, miscommunication slowly separated my boyfriend and I. Now we’re dating others. It’s hard for both of us. I don’t want to give up the thought that he is my lifetime partner, but it also feels unhealthy to think about the relationship or give energy to it. I want to love and be close to him, but when I do, I’m drawn back in. His desire to call me feels hurtful. Please help.

Consider the wisdom of this poem from Antonio Machado: “People own four things/ that are of no use at sea/ rudder, anchor, oars,/and the fear of going down.” You cannot trust the future unless you tell yourself the truth: This relationship was an invitation to know yourself better so you could refine your understanding of the best partner for you. Is he your ideal match? Not in this moment. So keep the belief that he was your perfect partner and surrender the belief that he still is. That will open your heart to whoever is knocking gently at its door.

Meditation of the week
The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion,” wrote Thomas Paine. Are you willing to get close enough to your religion to simplify it? Are you willing to be close enough to your neighbors, everywhere, to love them as kin?

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