A boyfriend broke up with me once because I didn’t want to spend as much time with him as he wanted to spend with me. Sounds simplistic, but this was the bottom line.
We couldn’t see eye-to-eye on time and space. He thought being a couple meant spending most of our waking hours together. I thought being a couple meant spending one third to one quarter of our time together.
Early on, we were together more because that’s what you do in that brief, intoxicating hormonal haze of a new relationship. When I started to level out to a more balanced flow, his separation anxiety kicked in. This is not the compliment it seems to be, but he somehow could not get enough of me.
He wanted more me, and so did I.
I just couldn’t keep up with his insatiable need for contact. What he thought worse was that I didn’t even try. But how do you act like a love-struck teenager when you’re not a teenager and have a teenager to raise alone, a full-time job, writing projects, friends, and were never particularly good at three-legged races anyway?
“I need room to breathe and do the things I think I have to do without you,” I told him when he complained about imagined abandonment, often feeling like a parrot who’d squawked out the same thing a hundred times.
The couply things I did do, however, seemed like plenty. Romancing, dancing, dining out, and being a plus-one at his friend’s bbq’s, anniversaries and kid’s graduations without complaint. Above all, he said I was the best girlfriend he’d ever had, near or far.
So why did he still ding me for not coming every time he called? Why did I never get credit for being able to so deftly jump from Me to We time?
A Saturday ago, I cheered an author on the radio who spent five years traveling with her partner in an RV for sharing that one of their travel rules was to spend a few hours alone every day. To enjoy their own rhythm, she said.
Maybe my clingy ex didn’t have a rhythm. Or any desire to create one.
It may have been a problem that he didn’t read. Most of my men have and this alone provided them with endless hours of self-entertainment along with watching sports, tinkering with cars or chasing dreams. They had lives beyond me, and I didn’t know how much I admired that until I ran into this one who didn’t. This one who wanted to wrap himself around me like an anaconda and never let go.
To this day, there’s something remarkably sexy about a man who can find the balance between being self-interested and entertained and available for companionship. Someone who wants to spend time with me, but doesn’t need to.
Although I loved the clingy ex and enjoyed many aspects of our relationship, way too many times, we cycled through this crazy battle of wills over a hard-wired personality trait that makes me happy.
After our split, I know sadness was the emotion that was supposed to rise to the surface, but I felt a flood of relief instead, and he has chased me over several social media platforms since then to reconnect—only proving my point that he still doesn’t know how to give me space.