Ask Marzipan (or Swine Flu Left Holes in My Relationship, Part II)

December 03, 2009

Dear Marzipan,

I have a friend that has embarked on a cross-continent drive (California to Brazil) with her boyfriend.  They are driving a van the whole way and all started well until about mid-way through Mexico.  Now my friend is having homicidal thoughts toward her boyfriend from their close quarters and being around each other CONSTANTLY.  From your personal experience of your time abroad with C, do you have any suggestions for her?

Oh boy, do I empathize.  It is difficult to be around someone constantly, no matter HOW MUCH you love them. Particularly, when you love them, because you feel like you need/want to take space, but you also feel guilty about needing that and often when you are in close proximity, such as on a road trip.  Post illness with C, we were both feeling totally stir crazy, but also so codependent in our post-illness recovery and wanted to just cuddle up together.  I recommend forcing yourself to take some space, even if it feels mean or impossible, because giving yourself an opportunity to miss that person is so important to a relationship.  This should relieve homicidal thoughts as well as providing much needed independence.  And it can be as easy as going to shopping/having a cup of coffee/going to a museum or movie SOLO.

Also, probably, if your friend is having angry thoughts towards her partner that is shining through despite her best efforts to hide it from him via bickering or shortness, which may be harming the relationship more than just admitting and taking the space that she needs.  I know that for me, taking space is REALLY hard, but what helps is looking at C’s face when I am (understandably?) short with her.  It is not her fault that I am feeling stir crazy, nor is it fair for me to take it out on her.  What I tell myself is that I need to be responsible for my own happiness and the positive or negative energy that I am contributing to the relationships. Bickering begets bickering, quickly escalating to a full on argument, one that is often hurtful and unnecessary.

The other hard truth is that, if it is really getting hard and difficult for her to remain on that trip, it may be time to cut and run.  I’m not a cut-and-run type of girl myself, preferring despite all odds and personal inconveniences to persevere until the very last blow is thrown, but I acknowledge that this is NOT usually the best policy as it has often left me war-torn and near insanity.   Maybe they need REAL space, like the kind that involves planes and week(s) of solitude.. I think that at that moment it really requires some personal introspection to decide, as no one can judge where that line is for someone else.

I much prefer to give this kind of advice: Do things that remind you why you wanted to go on such a crazy road trip that person. What made you fall in love? What do you like about them? What differences can you acknowledge and then put away for the good of the relationship? What fun thing can you do together to spark romance and good feeling? [if you have exhausted all of those choices, revisit the cut and run]