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Ask Aryssa: Should I Give My Long-Term Partner Space?

posted on January 14, 2021 | by Aryssa Durrell

Ask Aryssa: Should I Give My Long-Term Partner Space?

My girlfriend and I have been together for 8 years—since high school. She’s now been texting and hanging out with a coworker of hers. Part of me feels like she should have space to explore because we got together so young, but I’m not sure how to handle it.

Partners becoming friendly with coworkers is a common situation that can make waves in a relationship. We’ve even seen it play out on major television shows like The Office with Pam, Roy, and Jim. But, somehow Jim’s witty banter becomes less charming when you find yourself in a similar position as Roy. Thankfully, IRL good communication has proven to help couples navigate the murky waters new friendships sometimes can bring. 

When your partner makes connections with new people it can raise a lot of emotions and questions that may not have existed before. So this is probably a good time to have a check-in with your partner about the relationship and discuss boundaries that may need to be tweaked to keep the relationship comfortable for you both. Ask your girlfriend to set aside some time for a conversation about how you both are feeling in the relationship and how you are feeling about her new friendship with her coworker. 

In this check-in, the topic of trust may come up or you could find that you are right, and your girlfriend would like to explore the idea of having space. Either way and with whatever may arise, be honest with your partner about what you are feeling. Talking through any insecurities for either one of you will help to set the tone for your relationship moving forward. 

When approaching your partner to initiate this conversation, realize they may need time to reflect on their feelings. It is possible they have not thought critically about the connection with their coworker or what that means for your relationship, so giving a bit of time and space for them to sort those feelings may be necessary. The goal of this discussion is to find understanding between the two of you about what your relationship will look like moving forward, so you want to be careful to communicate with your girlfriend in a way that makes her feel comfortable being honest about what she needs. 

Although you have been together for a long time, as you two grow as individuals you will find that your needs as a couple may change. As these changes occur discussing new boundaries and opening up about what makes you uncomfortable in your relationship is paramount. It can be delicate to balance wanting to set boundaries in a relationship without making your partner feel they are not able to have meaningful connections with others, but working together to find what feels right for you will be beneficial in the long run. 

You may find in this check-in that the simple resolution here is that your girlfriend has to change the ways in which she interacts with her coworker to make you more comfortable. Communication is the only way to discover if that is all that is needed or if something a little deeper is going on. 

Remember to approach your girlfriend with an open mind, these conversations are not always easy, but they are essential for you and your partner’s future.