DEAR NATALIE: I was blindsided by my girlfriend recently. I came home from work one night last week and she had all of her bags packed. She told me that she was moving out. We live together and I thought the pandemic was bringing us closer. We had even talked about getting married next year. She said she can’t take it and misses me being her “part-time girlfriend.” What does that even mean? She doesn't want to break up, she is just going to live with her dad for a while until she “sorts it all out.” He lives about 30 minutes from us, so it’s a huge change. I thought we were happy. She just keeps saying it’s all too much. What should I do? My friends say if I stay with her, I’m just letting her walk all over me. But I love her and don’t want to break up. Maybe she just needs space? Any advice will be helpful. —BEWILDERED GIRLFRIEND
DEAR BEWILDERED GIRLFRIEND: The long term mental health impacts of Covid-19 are just starting to show as everything begins to fray at the edges for people and their relationships. I am sorry that your girlfriend is stressed out to the point where she seems to need a break from her life. The problem with her approach, however, is that you can’t go around this. We have to go through it. Avoiding you may seem like the way to destress, but eventually living with her dad is going to have the same effect. What she really needs to do is communicate to you how she is feeling instead of blindsiding you. All you can do now is decide what you want. She clearly has made her decision. It’s unfair for her to think that you want to be a “part-time girlfriend.” That seems insulting, especially since you were talking about marriage in the near future. If you love her and want to try to make this work, then go for it. If you need time to sort things out for yourself, no one would blame you. Decide what kind of partner you need and want. I understand everyone is stressed out. I understand everyone is scared and frustrated. But if this is how she acts when times get tough, how can you build a life with her in the long run? People show you who they are. I would believe her on this one. Then, it’s up to you to decide what you can live with—and what you can’t.
DEAR NATALIE: My boyfriend is very close with his family. Every week, they have dinner together--yes, in person. In pre-Covid days, I thought that this was a very nice tradition. Now, not so much. Plus, the night they have dinner is the night I take dance classes. Yes, the classes are virtual since the pandemic hit. And yes, I don’t really approve of them getting together during this time, and I’ve told him that. He thinks that I should change my extracurriculars to make room for his family night. But, I don’t think that it is fair of him to ask. I enjoy his family, but I think seeing them every week is a bit much for me, and I enjoy my dance classes. I also don’t particularly want to be around people who aren’t taking this pandemic seriously. What should I do? We got into a big fight about it yesterday. —FAMILY VS FREE TIME
DEAR FAMILY VS FREE TIME: This isn’t even as much about free time as it is about boundaries. You are allowed to say that you aren’t comfortable around his family because of their flippant attitude around the pandemic. More than 300,000 people have died in the United States in less than a year because of Covid-19. You have every right to take care of yourself and the people who live with you. If you don’t want to be around them, and it’s easier to use virtual dance classes as an excuse, that is your choice. Your boyfriend cannot fault you for needing time to yourself, doing something that brings joy during this difficult time, and for not wanting to put yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. If your boyfriend wants you involved in family night, say that you would love to pick another night during the week and virtually hangout with everyone via Zoom. Their cavalier attitude around the virus is a big reason as to why our collective misery is being prolonged. Put your foot down. Acknowledge your own needs. Your boyfriend may be afraid to stand up to his family, but you certainly don’t have to cower to their irresponsible and selfish requests.
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